Paradise Now

Quietly moving (and troubling) drama about two ordinary Palestinian men, good friends, who have been drafted by a secret "freedom fighting" organization to become suicide bombers in nearby Tel Aviv - the very next day.

Agreeing to the job without argument - as much due to the frustration of their own personal lives as to any hatred of Israelis or love of Allah - the two commit themselves to the task until a snag suddenly separates them early on, giving each man time to reflect on what they're doing, why they're doing it, and whether they really want to go through with it. The results are unexpected.

Arab filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad clearly places himself among those seeking a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, but he nevertheless understands the bitterness felt by the Palestinians, leaving it up to us to judge their actions. In lesser hands, Paradise Now would have been preachy, obvious, hysterical, and lumpen. But Abu-Assad and his excellent cast are honest and forthright in their work. The film is as subjective as possible - it is a war story without violence, a heart-wrencher without a musical score, a thriller without bad guys, a love story without sex. Watching the film puts the lie to the stereotype of the suicide bomber, exposing us to a human situation so complicated that the only thing we can really agree on is its tragic nature. Highly recommended.