Review: Omar

Heightened emotions in 'wall' movie


I like to think it's important to see things from both sides of the fence - or in the case of Hany Abu-Assad's Omar, the wall, as it is the towering rampart surrounding the occupied West Bank that dominates this tale about love and loyalty. For central character Omar (a first-class performance by newcomer Adam Bakri) the wall not only symbolises oppression, but separation from his beloved Nadia ((Leem Lubany) who lives on the other side with her protective older brother Tarek (Eyad Hourani), a major player in the local resistance.

Scaling the walls is a daily task for Omar, a baker by trade who wants to settle down and even honeymoon in Paris given the chance. But, coerced into taking part in an ambush on Israelis, it is Omar who is picked up for shooting a border guard. After being tortured and interrogated by an Israeli agent (Waleed Zuaiter), Omar is offered a no-win deal that will test his loyalty and threaten his relationship. Nominated for Best Foreign Film at this year's Oscars, Omar reminds us that one group's freedom fighter is another's terrorist and, until that changes, the stalemate will continue. Though we are in no doubt where Abu-Assad's allegiances lie, it is difficult to challenge something that feels so real, thanks largely to the fine performances of the mostly first-time actors. Omar is a tough watch, not least of all because of its shocking ending, but for those who have yet to look over the wall, it's a lesson from the other side.

Though I've nothing but admiration for the director who made Chinatown and The Pianist, Roman Polanski's new film, an adaptation of David Ives's Broadway, play is not really for me. This uber-theatrical two-hander set on a claustrophobic Parisian stage has both of Polanski's go-to emotions - intense and compulsive - in spades as well as some wit and a lot of underwear.

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