Paradise Now review

Terrorists are Evil. Right? Turn on the news, pick up a paper, click on a website - it's ingrained. Listen to the politicians. You're either for us or against us. It's their God; or ours. Two sides, black and white, right and wrong, good and evil. Take your pick.

But dig a little deeper and there's a different story. Because after all, how evil is someone who thinks they're dying for God, for their paradise?

Already nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar, Hany Abu-Assad's brilliant Paradise Now tells of two Palestinian best friends, Said and Khaled. Spending theirs days drinking tea, indulging in petty disputes, smoking and checking out girls... stick them in skater-gear and it could be an Arabic reimagining of Slackers. Or at least it could - if they hadn't made a pact to be suicide bombers. Before Spielberg's Munich, Hollywood terrorists were cardboard cut-outs: cackling, wild-eyed loons whose intent was to Do Bad for Vague Reasons. But here, not only are they fully-rounded and, yes, funny, but we also see their cause. It's in the background of every shot: the crumbling, rocket-blasted poverty of their West Bank city, jarring against their rich Israeli occupiers: a funded franchise of US McDemocracy.

As their carefully planned plans start to unravel - pitching a bomb-primed Khaled on a desperate hunt for his friend - they are forced to question their morals. The success here is the mix. You hate them for what they're doing, but can't help but like them as individuals. You understand the issues, but opposing views are never ventriloquised. You reel in horror as Khaled makes his martyr video - but laugh in rapture when the camera breaks and he has to go all over again. And, all the time, with Khaled's mortality strapped to his waist: every move, every jolt (for him and the audience) is an exquisite torture.

Can acts of terrorism ever be excused? Not in our world, no. But as Paradise Now shows, that doesn't mean it's black and white.

One of the year's most challenging and provocative films. Director Hany Abu-Assad is bold and brave enough to show that terrorism isn't just Good vs Evil.

More Info

Available platformsMovie