Analysts and crank theorists of Academy Award politics should find much to discuss in this poised thriller, for which filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad has earned his and Palestine's second-ever nomination in the category of Foreign Language Film (the first was for his 2005 drama Paradise Now, about a pair of would-be suicide bombers). Omar's eponymous protagonist (Adam Bakri) is a handsome and affable young West Bank baker who daily scales a security wall and endures ugly occupier bullying in order to visit the girl he likes (Leem Lubany) — and also to conspire with her brother (Eyad Hourani) and another friend (Samer Bisharat) in the shooting of an Israeli soldier. For this, justice is swift, and savagely vindictive, and inescapably unjust. It's the inescapability that's most of interest to Abu-Assad, who mines the familiar thriller territory — arguably, the familiar political territory — of mutual suspicion, in which betrayal becomes inevitable. We take Omar's fate to be sealed from the moment he first meets his soft-voiced, salt-and-pepper-bearded, Mandy-Patinkin-on-Homeland-looking interrogator, (Nor Cal native Waleed Zuaiter, also a producer here), who soon manipulates him into becoming an informant. Abu-Assad skillfully reminds us that life under occupation breeds pestilential paranoia, but his film's thriller trappings may dilute this profundity into a banality. Is that what got it approved by the Academy? Crank theorists, take it away.
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