“Paradise Now” can be considered a buddy movie, except in this case the buddies are two Palestinian suicide bombers (don’t expect an American remake with Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller). Said and Khaled are two slacker mechanics in Nablus who are recruited to infiltrate Israel and blow themselves up in a densely populated section of Tel Aviv. But when they attempt to breach a security fence dividing the Occupied Territories from Israel, they are detected by the Israeli military and get separated from each other.
And that’s where “Paradise Now” falls apart. It seems highly unlikely that this type of an operation would not have a contingency plan for dealing with detection by the Israeli military, nor is it credible that Said and Khaled would go into their mission without cell phones. Likewise, it makes little sense why the militia planning the suicide venture would blame Said for its failure, when it is clear the blame lies with their Israel-based operative who drove off without the duo. After the Said and Khaled are separated, the film becomes a contrived chase and search adventure – but there is no suspense since it is obvious they will be reunited at some point.
“Paradise Now” has some memorable moments during its first half, most notably the comic attempts to film a martyr video (the camera doesn’t record, the would-be martyr is distracted when his colleagues are having lunch as he states his reasons for sacrifice). And Lubna Azabal, as the love interest in the story, is charming and attractive but is ultimately wasted when her role turns into a shrill devil’s advocate against the use of violence to fight the Israeli occupation.
Filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad, who helmed the excellent “Rana’s Wedding,” missed the boat on this one. He may have hoped to give a human voice to the suicide bombers, but instead he gave them a misfired movie.