Paradise Now

A memorable treatment of a difficult subject.

"The typology suggests four categories of suicide bombers: religious fanatic, exploited, avenger, and nationalist fanatic."

The Taylor Group's studious analysis of bombers, regardless of the typology, cannot get to the heart of their motives as insightfully as a new film about that subject. Read further.

Almost all conflicts east of New York leave me questioning my intellect, so convoluted are the motives, so complex the histories. Along comes a fair treatment of the Israeli/Palestinian war called Paradise Now, which makes almost understandable but not justifiable the thinking of two suicide bombers. Like Khandahar (2001) it offers an understanding of the effects of attempted suicide, not just the rationale.

The little town of Nablus in the 2004 Intifada serves up willing bombers Said and his childhood buddy, Khaled. As they are prepared for their final journey by expert handlers, the range of reasons are reduced to two or three major influences on their final act. Director Hany Ab-Assad forces no point of view from his film, just a subtle hint that the two men may not yet be ready for the terminal decision. Their thoughts are at the heart of the debate over the superiority of one side over the other. Although I am reluctant to reveal the reasoning, it is sufficient to say that neither side has a monopoly on righteousness.

The measured pace of the film impresses me because I expected a frenetic fanaticism behind such parlous acts. It's almost as if the director wanted us to feel the delicacy of the decisions that are not arrived at tumultuously or easily. Lead bomber Said has the potential for love with the attractive daughter of a resistance leader, making his decision even more precious and paralleling the love of his mother and family.

If Paradise Now achieves anything, it might be a softening of our notion that terrorists have no hearts and nothing to live for. This film is a memorable treatment of a most troublesome and until now inscrutable world.