WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A couple of life long friends living in Palestine decide to fight political causes by strapping explosives to their bodies and going on a suicide mission. A dark subject matter with many questions Ė is it the right thing to do, what are the alternatives, and if they go through with it, will it actually invoke change?
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
While the subject matter of PARADISE NOW is a political hot potato, the film itself suffers from a bad case of being overly dramatic, too reflective and introspective for its own good. Which is a shame because the second half of the film is quite riveting, but unfortunately requires about forty minutes of patience to get rolling. (And thatís a lot of time, especially for a foreign film!) Iím not suggesting that a good set up with character development is a waste of time, quite the contrary, I understand itís key to solidifying a strong relationship between the characters and the audience. But here there are just too many long moments of nothing, too many long stares which feel void of meaning and the film suffers greatly because of it. Itís hard to pinpoint whoís to blame, especially since the last half of the film is so powerful, but what's wrong is as clear as day and someone should have recognized it. Co-writer and Director Abu-Assad starts his film off weak, but creates a second half that earned its Oscar Nomination for best Foreign Language Film 2005, the latter is compelling work.
Even the performances here go from boring and mundane in the first half, to being incredibly moving in the second. Nashef and Suilman, who play the two long time friends, seem to come out of their shells with the more peril they encounter, so by the end of the film, weíre with them completely. Itís just a shame it takes so long to walk down a road that is essentially a straight line. PARADISE NOW is a film that takes a controversial subject and tries to give it a human face and, of course, only half succeeds. If you can sit through it, the second half of the film is a knock out. A tense and nail biting look at what it is to become a human bomb, while still being a human being. Itís unfortunate that for the first forty minutes, the filmmakers tried to set up a film about taking life, with a film that was already undeniably lifeless.
Nothing but a Theatrical Trailer here and while I feel bad for the person who decides to buy this film looking for extras, I almost feel worse for the filmmakers. Here, either good or bad, they have boldly taken on a controversial subject and have no other voice other then the film to speak. This movie cries out for a commentary track with answers to impending questions Ė what were the filmmakers thinking, how tough was it to get the film made, and did they ever have second thoughts about the subject matter? While a couple of featurettes wouldn't hurt as well, not giving this one its vocal due, while the HOSTEL DVD has four commentary tracks, is just plain wrong. Shame on everybody involved.
PARADISE NOW suffers from being a classic half and half, meaning the first part of the film falls flat, while the second comes out of the box swinging. I donít know which is worse, the first or second part of a film being boring. There are pros and cons on both sides Ė if itís the opening that's bad, at least our expectations arenít high, but thereís the turning-the-film-off-early thing to worry about. And if itís the second half, at least we got suckered into watching, but for what reason? I prefer the first, because as in the case of this film, you at least end with a memorable taste in your mouth. As an entire film, PARADISE NOW needed to do just that Ė to achieve the paradise of being a richly compelling film not just later, but now.