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Paradise Now

Year: 2005
Production Co: Augustus Film
Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Writer: Hany Abu-Assad
A lot of issues movies forget to tell a story, too wrapped in their moral righteousness to keep you engaged. Paradise Now is no such film, and you're as interested in what's going on are you are politically sensitive to the plight of the characters and the life they represent.

Said and Khaled are two young friends in Palestine working in an auto repair business and dreaming about everything from money to girls, same as any young men (in many other movies - particularly American ones - the script would make a heavy-handed point of this rather than weave it into the flow of the story).

The difference is that their names are down on a very serious list, and when a handler comes to tell them their names have come up for a suicide bomb mission against Israel, they accept as if it's a place at an uninteresting TAFE course.

You're never sure if the ease with which they agree to the mission is a front or not. At first Said is the one who seems unsure, reluctant to leave a family who loves him and a girl he's interested in, a young customer at the mechanic.

As the two record their videotaped testimonies, machine gun in hand, explosives strapped around their middles and setting off for the remote stretch of security fencing, the tension is implicit in what they're doing. You'll feel a real sense of foreboding that isn't on the page nor is explicit on screen except in their actions and the callousness with which they accept them.

When the operation goes wrong and their handler on the Israeli side is discovered by the military, Khaled and Said don't know what to do. They get separated and go on the run, desperately trying to find each other and the outfit that assigned them, who have packed up shop and fled in anticipation of a reprisal.

There's a lot of soul searching, doubt shot through with certainty and Hitchcockian plotting as Khaled and Said race around the borderlands between Israel and Palestine, and a lot of comment on the politics of the conflict that you don't even recognise as such at the time as you believe so deeply in the characters.

It was an easy sell in hindsight, guaranteed to court controversy and glowing reviews from left wing movie personalities, but looking past it all it's a very well put together film as well.

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