Kais Nashif, Ali Suliman, Lubna Azabal
Suicide bombers are now a fact of life. But the questions we ask after such carnage have become helplessly rhetorical: who would do such a thing? And why? Paradise Now offers convincing answers, but never the expected ones.
Removed from news-channel hysteria, this clear-eyed drama simply maps the steps that lead two young Palestinian men from their workaday lives to serving as instruments of terror. In the West Bank town of Nablus, Said (Kais Nashef ) and his friend Khaled (Ali Suliman) eke out a meagre living fixing cars. They squabble with hard-to-please customers; they take breaks to smoke a water pipe and chat.
Then a serious, bespectacled man approaches and tells them their time has come. From this moment forward, they are in preparation for their mission. Director Hany Abu-Assad, who made the acclaimed Rana’s Wedding, refuses the melodrama that a story of suicide bombers could attract. In fact, Paradise Now feels more like a quiet, determined procedural. This is what it is like to be shaved and cleansed for the next day’s slaughter. This is the chain of command. This is what happens when things go wrong, and you find yourself running around Nablus with a bomb locked to your torso.
Exerting masterful control over his material, Abu-Assad holds sober observation and stark absurdity in perfect balance. In one heart-stopping sequence, Said and Khaled record chilling martyr videos; when it turns out the camera is not working, they are forced to do a second take.