“Paradise Now” is a shocking, eye-opening attempt at understanding the minds and hearts of suicide bombers. I really feel this movie opened my eyes to the other side of the world and I truly felt for these men and their people. The struggles they had to deal with in their own country are mind blowing. Although I do not agree with their decisions; they do take a chance of giving their lives to fight for their families and their own beliefs. I thank god for the freedom and living conditions we have here in America. Said and Khaled, the main characters of this film, are never less than fully human characters. They are real.
They have their doubts and anxieties about carrying out their mission, although for the sake of morale, they keep those doubts mostly to themselves. For Said and Khaled, maintaining their faith to carry out such radical actions requires regular bouts of prayer; they know Allah is watching them. When Said and Khaled receive word that it is time; they have volunteered for a suicide mission, to slip into Tel Aviv and detonate explosives strapped to their bodies on a crowded bus. You can see how scared they are that there time has come but this is what they feel they were meant to do in their lives for Allah and their families.
Life under the occupation was never livable to them in the first place. Their water was said to be contaminated, food was scarce; living conditions were just horrendous. When Khaled says, “I am already dead,” his stare is so horribly absent that we have no choice but to believe him. Although I don’t believe in committing suicide and taking others lives; I can truly almost feel their pain and understand why they feel the need for their actions. The mens final preparations; such as the videotaping of militant final statements, with each man holding a machine gun and reading from a script, was unreal to me.
I truly don’t believe this would be the last way their families would like to see them. I didn’t feel that Said and Khaled were too comfortable with this either but they did what they felt Allah would want. You can see the discomfort especially when Khaled is giving his mother shopping tips. This scene really got to me. For the conclusion of their preparation the men are bathed, shaved, put into suits and outfitted with a bomb jacket which they can trigger by pulling on a ripcord. They tape their “martyr videos” and eat a last supper. I just can’t get over the fact how they prepare; knowing they are going to die tomorrow.
Knowing that would be their last supper and they weren’t even with their loved ones; how is that okay? Meeting the woman Suha, I felt became such an important part of the film. In an emotional confrontation with both men, she articulates the arguments against suicide bombing. She asks what happens to the people who are left behind and what will their actions start. Her question eludes not only to the grief of surviving loved ones but also to the political fallout from suicide bombing: the tragic pattern of revenge begetting revenge that will further oppress Palestinians.
Her humane voice becomes the movie’s moral and emotional theme. Suha does get to Khaled but at the end we are left unsaid about Said. Did Said pull that cord on the bus filled with men, woman and children? I honestly believe he did. Said left Khaled behind purposely. He knew Khaled was distraught and not ready for this act. Khaled was his best friend and he knew he would do anything for him so I feel that Said needed to prove to him he would do the same.
By Said committing this suicide bombing would now also help his friend as he now would only have to take his own life. Said prepared for this act mentally and physically and you could feel by his facial and body expressions that he was ready. “Paradise Now” goes down easy but is difficult to digest. Abu-Assad, the director, makes it possible to understand how a person, driven by desperation, hatred, and shame, might end up committing the most heinous acts. But understanding is not the same as sympathy or forgiveness.