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Paradise Now

Paradise Now (Arabic: الجنّة الآن) is a 2005 Palestinian film directed by Hany Abu-Assad. It revolves around the story of two friends, both Palestinian men, who plans to launch a suicide attack in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Plot. Said and Khaled are childhood friends living in Nablus and working as mechanics. One day, they are instructed by their “resistance group” (unidentified in the film) that the two of them would instigate a suicide attack the next day. That night, the pair records videos bidding their loved ones goodbye and venerating their cause.

The next day, they bathed, shaved their heads and dressed suits to look like Israelis, with a cover story that they are going to attend a wedding. Both men are strapped with an explosive belt which can only be removed without detonating by the handlers. Accordingly, the bombs are to be detonated at a military check point in Israel.

Said and Khaled are about to cross the Israeli border when the guards see them. They flee with Khaled returning to their handlers and Said running away. The explosive belt is removed from Khaled, and consequently, he is tasked to find Said before the day ends.  

Meanwhile, Said roams around the Israeli territory. At one point, he considers detonating the bomb in a passenger bus but decides against it when he sees a child aboard. It has become like “soul searching” moment for Said as the movie reveals his reasons for taking part in the suicide bombing.

Soon, Khaled finds Said lying on his father’s grave. The pair returns to their handlers and Said convinces them that the attack must continue. Hence, they both travel back to Tel Aviv and successfully enter inside Israel. However, Khaled changes his mind and decides to cancel the attack. Said tricks him into agreeing with him but he actually sends Khaled back outside Israel.

In the final scene, Said embarks a bus carrying Israeli soldiers and civilians. The film zooms in on his eyes and the scene suddenly turns white. It is left to the audience to interpret whether Said explodes the bomb or not.

Commentary. Great movies can make us understand the characters, no matter how complicated they might be. They can make us feel for them, though it does not necessarily mean grieving or cheering for them. In the end, we can make good judgment of the characters and of their decisions and actions. One such great film is Paradise Now.

Paradise Now is a thrilling eye-opening attempt to understand the heart and mind of suicide bombers. The movie takes us to the lives of two friends who are driven by love, desperation, hatred, shame, and vengeance to commit the most heinous act. They are not portrayed as heartless and evil murderers; instead, the movie humanizes them, that they also have doubts, anxieties and fears just like any person. They have morale and principles; yet, their emotions have overruled their wise judgment that they resort to glorify a murderous plan. Yes, audiences would understand the characters after watching the film and the open end solicits various interpretations. Along with these, audience will sympathize, forgive, or hate the characters.

Aside from its psychological aspect, Paradise Now is also political and religious as it depicts a chaotic and dark setting. It takes us outside and inside Israel, two worlds opposing in lifestyle and economy, yet similar in being filled with tension and sadness. The movie gives us a picture of the struggles that Palestine and Israel must face each day. It does not suggest a solution to this strife. But having effectively given audience the feel and view of what is life like there, it has successfully educated, influenced and opened up their hearts.

Paradise Now is full of suspenseful moments, and the slight humor and short love story in the film puts balance and believability in it. As in life, no matter how difficult and lonely it may be, we always find means to draw inspirations and happiness from the people and things around us.

Reception. Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a rating of 89%. It won several awards including the 63rd Golden Globe Award’s Best Foreign Language Film. It was also nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category in the Academy Award.

Rating. Five stars out of five for this movie. Paradise Now is truly an instant classic.

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