Paradise Now

Surely the first buddy movie ever to use a pair of suicide bombers as the buddies, Hany Abu-Assad’s film succeeds for being so deliberately unceremonious. Without saying or doing too much, Paradise Now manages character study, political seriousness, tonal variety and the unique brand of suspense that results from two leads spending most of their screen time in girdles full of explosives. Said (Kais Nashef) and Khaled (Ali Suliman) are rangy, unkempt auto mechanics who’ve been friends since they were kids, and who could pass for typical slackers if they didn’t happen to belong to a terrorist cell in the West Bank. Even at their most impenetrable, the two young men inspire empathy, and the sight of them receiving their preparatory shaves, haircuts, dapper suits, bombs and rhetoric is uneasily bewitching. The film, shot on location under armed duress to quit, frustrates many expectations, not least the presumed inevitability of its taking sides. Its deadpan outlook on martyrdom is blackly funny and brutal and heartbreaking, but never in any way fanatical.