Read a description of Hany Abu-Assad’s Omar – the tale of a Palestinian freedom fighter forced into collaboration by the Israeli secret forces – and you’ll probably imagine a slice of social realism. You know, natural lighting, no non-diegetic music, liberal use of handheld camera and a nuanced take on Israel-Palestine aggression.
The actual picture couldn’t be more different from this imaginary film; Abu-Assad has produced a film more in line with an American spy-thriller. It’s slickly shot with sharp compositions, robust lighting, and parkour-heavy action sequences straight out of 2006. The actor playing the eponymous protagonist – Adam Bakri – has Hollywood-leading-man looks (though, sadly, not Hollywood-leading-man charisma) and despite the film’s exploration of moral ambiguity, he’s unquestionably the good guy throughout.
Political ambiguity is avoided altogether – Israelis are brutish, manipulative baddies while Palestinians are community-minded and noble (with the occasional bad egg, of course). And there’s nothing wrong with this! It’s unfair to criticise Omar – the first fully Palestinian-funded feature film – for not delivering ‘balanced’ insight, especially when compared with the pro-USA jingoism found at the multiplexes. Omar does everything it sets out to do – it’s entertaining, thrilling and it looks great – even if it’s not what you might imagine.