Over the years the Oscars has seen many nominees that have been unfairly beaten to the ultimate prize by an inferior film. The Best Foreign Language Film Oscar is even more precarious as many great films have failed to be chosen by their respective countries to compete. The Battle of Algiers, The Last Metro, Au Revoir, Les Enfants, Raise the Red Lantern, Amores Perros, Amélie, Downfall, Waltz with Bashir and A Prophet have all fallen at the final hurdle. Omar lost to The Great Beauty last year, and whilst the latter is a good film it’s not a patch on Hany Abu-Assad’s very timely drama.
Young Palestinians Omar (Adam Bakri), Tarek (Iyad Hoorani) and Amjad (Samer Bisharat) are childhood friends. Omar regularly scales the ‘Apartheid Wall’ in the West Bank to see them, but this might have something to do with his attraction to Tarek’s sister Nadia (Leem Lubany). The trio are also freedom fighters, and when they shoot a policeman they have to go on the run. After Omar is caught, Agent Rami (Waleed Zuaiter) tries to persuade him to hand them Tarek. Despite trying to play the Jewish authorities at their own game, it would seem that there’s an informant in their group.
What makes Omar such an entertaining and brilliantly made film is Abu-Assad’s ability to create a constant sense of mounting tension with great editing and pace. There are great performances throughout, with twists and turns that keep you guessing at every corner. The action sequences are impressive but it’s the intrigue which beats at its pulsing heart. Omar is a film to watch on the edge of your seat, not knowing what’s going to happen next.
Omar is released on Blu-ray and DVD by Soda Pictures on Monday.