July 09, 2014

Movie Review: Omar

Please note: This ended up being a plot-line instead of a review - my apologies. Spoiler Alert! You have been warned.


This 2013 Oscar nominee was written and directed by Hany Abu-Assad and stars Adam Bakri in the titular role. Omar, with his childhood friends Tarek and Amjad, is plotting to kill Israeli soldiers. They train under Tarek's leadership, taking near perfect shots at the practice target. Right after drinking tea served by Nadia, while Omar and Nadia exchanged love letters unbeknownst to Tarek.

They are in love with each other, and Omar is waiting for the right time to tell Tarek and get his permission. The plot intertwines both the narratives of Omar's love for Nadia and his quest for freedom seamlessly. Amjad jokes about receiving love letters from Nadia, which should have been a warning sign for Omar, but he has known Amjad from his childhood, and perhaps knows about his tendency to exaggerate.

His family consists of his parents, a younger sister who criticizes Mourinho's coaching of Real Madrid at the dinner table, and a younger brother who titters at her. Omar works at a local Arabic bread bakery, and visits Nadia after school, or at her job as a seamstress to exchange letters. To meet her, he has to go over a wall, which he does by scaling it with the help of a knotted rope. One day, on his way back, an Israeli soldier in a jeep spots him and as he is walking away, he is stopped by the soldiers, talking to him on a loudspeaker.

They do not believe his story about visiting his girlfriend, especially after he gives them lip. He is asked to stand on a shaky piece of stone, with his hands held to his head. After a while, loud music is playing from the jeep, and Omar is still standing in the sun, hands held to his head. When a mosquito starts buzzing near his face, he loses his cool and tells the soldiers to drop their weapons and fight him like a man if they want something. He gets a broken nose in answer, and is told to go back to the stone, and now stand on one leg.

It is too cruel at times, and whichever side of the conflict you are on, this is not easy to watch.

Omar tells Tarek they have to take the operation forward that night. Tarek plans the operation, Omar steals the car, Amjad is to shoot. After hesitating, Amjad does the deed. They kill one soldier, run and Omar sets the getaway car on fire at a junkyard. The next day, he is working up the nerve to tell Tarek about Nadia while they drink tea with Amjad, when someone shouts "Undercover agents" and the three of them split. Running through the narrow streets between houses, it appears as though the streets keep getting narrower, and in the end he is captured.

Hung naked, while his torturer asks him who killed the soldier, Omar says nothing, but to tell the man he should wipe his nose out of snot. He steps away to clean up, and comes after him with a lighter. He says nothing, but at lunch the next day, someone at prison offers him advice on how prisoners are turned into informants when they confess. Omar says "I will never confess", which becomes an admission of guilt as the man was Agent Rami, wearing a wire. Agent Rami speaks perfect Arabic, and Omar doesn't know he is Arabic until he hears him speak Hebrew on the phone with his mom, where the only words he recognized were "Ma" and "Spiderman". He is given to understand that his only way out, to be able to make a life with Nadia, is to turn informant. He has to give up Tarek within a month.

Nadia tells Omar she heard rumours that he might be a traitor. Omar goes to Tarek and tells him how he got out, by agreeing to be an informant. Tarek tells him they have to find the source for the leak. They find a comrade, who says he ratted them out in exchange for a New Zealand visa. Omar shows Nadia the place he has bought for her, so they can have a place to live in. He tells Tarek about his love for Nadia, and Tarek says he will help them after they ambush Agent Rami with Omar's help. Omar lives this life of a double agent, not knowing whom to trust.

He has good reason. At the ambush, they are surprised again - the Israelis knew and they haul Omar in for questioning again. He begs for one more chance, and they let him out but with a tracking device on him. Rami says they have secrets on Nadia that they can use. Nadia refuses to talk to him, having heard everyone tell her he is a traitor - how else could he have gotten out so quickly? She walks away when he won't answer if he was a traitor. The next day, he sees Nadia hand over a letter to Amjad when he spies on her school yard. He follows Amjad, and when he threatens to kill him, Amjad says he was the one that gave away information, because he got Nadia pregnant, which the Israelis knew and were using the information to blackmail. Omar, thinking this must be Nadia's secret, is clearly upset about this betrayal but tells Amjad he will help him talk to Tarek.

During this talk which turns into a scuffle, Amjad kills Tarek, and they handover the body to Rami, who says they are both free now. Omar requests Nadia's father to give her hand in marriage to Amjad. Tarek's body is found much later as it was in a freezer for two months on Omar's request to Rami for time.

Two years later, Rami appears on his doorstep again, saying he can help him deal with the leader of a resistance unit who was asking questions about Tarek's death. Omar goes to meet Amjad for the first time since Tarek's funeral. Nadia greets him at the door, with a kid in her arms. She invites him in to wait for Amjad. When he asks for the age of the kids, he realizes Nadia was not pregnant until much after the wedding, Amjad had lied to him about everything. The letter Nadia had given Amjad, was meant for Omar, apologizing for calling him a traitor, but Amjad didn't deliver the letter. She is still in love with Omar.

He writes Nadia a letter. Omar then asks Rami for a gun, and tells him Amjad was the one that killed the soldier.

Who do you think he will use the gun on?

A fabulously made movie with gripping chase scenes, compact editing, and great performances from the cast of what I understand is mostly debutante actors.



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