Omar is a terrific and thrilling love story that encapsulates the audience and has them holding onto their seats throughout the film. However, labeling it as a romance is far from fair to the genius of the movie; Omar explores the relationships between love, betrayal, social acceptance, and borders in a tense Israel—Palestine setting. The plot, characters, picture, and theme make Omar a film worth repeated viewings.
The plot centers around the love between Omar (Adam Bakri), whose home is in Palestine, and Nadia (Leem Lubany), who lives in Israel. However, the excitement in the movie is generated from the actions of Omar, Tarek (Eyad Hourani), and Amjad (Samer Bisharat), all freedom fighters. After extensive training, they go off on a successful mission in which they shoot and kill an Israeli soldier. Tarek and Amjad are able to escape, but Omar is not as fortunate. He is caught and brought to prison. Facing life behind bars, Omar is forced to act as an informant; however, he has other plans. When a failed attempt to ambush authorities goes south, Omar is taken in for a second time, only to be sent out once again. Omar tries to maintain his relationship with Nadia as he seeks the person that is responsible for the failed ambush. As loyalty and love are contrasted with betrayal and personal gain, the audience is never left wanting more.
Director Hany Abu-Assad’s background is important to understand to fully grasp the truth and reality in the movie. Though born in Israel, Abu-Assad self-identifies as a Palestinian. The majority of the film was shot in Palestine, and all of the actors are natives. The inside perspective on the Israeli—Palestinian relationship adds to the ethos of the movie and creates an authenticity, earning the audience’s full trust and cooperation throughout the turmoil of events that would be hard to believe in any other circumstance. Additionally, Abu-Assad is able to elevate the protagonist and antagonist from the boring stereotypes portrayed in most dramatic romances – turning the movie into an all-time classic that leaves the audience discussing hidden meanings and reevaluating characters. Omar is a young and handsome Palestinian whose life is both physically and emotionally split in two by an isolation wall that separates his country from Israel, home to those he cares about, namely Nadia, Tarek, and Amjad. Omar is deeply in love with Nadia, and from the audience’s perspective, it is clear she feels the same way about him. He is determined to spend the rest of his life with her, regardless of any border between them. The power of love, as a theme, is prevalent as love and loyalty dictate Omar’s life from the beginning of the movie until the gunshot at the end. The paramount reason Omar scales the border is his love for Nadia. She means the world to him, which is a refreshing break from action-adventure movies that show a new woman throwing herself onto the protagonist every other scene. Omar’s character is made further complex by his role as a freedom fighter. His involvement in the killing of an unknown Israeli soldier is confusing when noting his truly admirable personality. This is a monumental statement by Abu-Assad: swaying the generally clear-cut lines between good and evil in a protagonist. It is important to recognize this comes at a time when suicide bombings and other acts of violent are not uncommon, as the perpetrators are labeled horrible people by the media without regard to their cause, motives, or backgrounds.
Amjad, a childhood friend of Omar, is also in love with Nadia, and is unable to tell she does not feel similarly towards him. An awkward scene at the beginning of the film where they are all in the same room foreshadows Amjad’s future betrayal of Omar for her. Amjad, known for his jokes and positive attitude, is turned into an informant and is the reason for the ambush going wrong. Amjad is additionally directly responsible for all the deaths shown on screen, as he is the one that physically pulls the trigger to kill the soldier, and he stabs Tarek once Omar makes him come clean. Once again, Abu-Assad uses a good character at heart to show that any one forced in bad positions can commit acts of horror, a hard but masterful achievement for a director. However, not all that Amjad does contains even a glimmer of good. His lie to Omar that he got Nadia pregnant so Omar would leave them alone is rooted out of evil and hopeless love.
Often lost in a movie with a great plot and even better character development is the picture, but Omar makes it nearly impossible for the audience to miss out. The opening scene is beautiful in of itself – cars and people whiz around Omar, but for him, life stands still. The battle of him against the wall is made more riveting with the aid of picture and sound. Yet another magnificent scene entails after Omar will not give up who shot the solider during torture and is put into the general prison. Agent Rami (Waleed Zuaiter) makes his first appearance here, disguising himself as a fellow prisoner and cunningly gets enough of a confession out of Omar to hold his life in his hands. Their interaction, most of which is full of silence, highlights their facial expressions as a means of language that speaks far louder than words.
Beyond the plot, characters, and directing lies the important theme of borders. The film commences with Omar looking up at the infamous West Bank barrier. Although Omar is able to get over the boundary dividing Israel and Palestine, some borders are not escapable. He cannot truly get past the prison walls: the only way out is to work against his loved ones. Although he did not do this, he faced social consequences. Those around him, including Nadia, believed he was working for the Israeli forces. The deterioration of his relationship with his true love was a result of the inescapability of the prison walls. In the end, the separation barrier proves too great to overcome emotionally and socially. Omar has plenty of moments of pure emotion, but none may be more compelling than the scene towards the end where Omar struggles to get over the border to see Nadia one last time. Pathos is utilized to engage the audience and make them feel for Omar, but Abu-Assad’s creation and development of Omar’s character turns the sadness into tears. Borders may hurt to overcome, but that pain is nothing compared to the sorrow felt when getting over them appears impossible.
Omar is a rare movie that fires on nearly all cylinders, reeling the audience in and not letting them go until the film leaves their thoughts. The plot, protagonist and antagonist development, and overall directing make this movie a must-see.