The Films of Hany Abu-Assad
Het 14e kippetje
Omar (February 17/14)
Omar follows the title character (Adam Bakri), a Palestinian freedom fighter, as he's forced to work as an informant by an Israeli police officer, with the film detailing Omar's continuing efforts at both maintaining his friendships and holding the cops at bay. There's little doubt that Omar fares best in its opening half hour, as filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad does a nice job of initially drawing the viewer into the perilous landscape inhabited by the various characters - with the compelling atmosphere heightened by the efforts of a superb cast. (Bakri's impressively charismatic and engrossing turn as the sympathetic central character is matched by a strong supporting cast, to be sure.) The film's promising tone, perpetuated by some decent action and a relatively interesting doomed-lovers subplot, persists right up until around the halfway mark, after which point Abu-Assad begins suffusing Omar with misguided and palpably underwhelming elements - including a fairly major plot twist that's left unexplained and stripped of context. It doesn't help, either, that the narrative reaches a point wherein it could logically end and yet the film chugs along for an additionally 20 minutes, with the drawn-out third act ensuring that the shocking act of violence that closes the proceedings hardly packs the punch that Abu-Assad has obviously intended - which ultimately cements Omar's place as a disappointingly half-baked endeavor that could (and should) have been much better.
The Mountain Between Us (November 11/17)
Based on a book by Charles Martin, The Mountain Between Us follows strangers Alex (Kate Winslet) and Ben (Idris Elba) as they're forced to work together after their chartered plane crashes on a remote, snow-covered mountain. There's little doubt that The Mountain Between Us fares best in its impressively gripping first half, as director Hany Abu-Assad does a terrific job of establishing the two central characters and, eventually, depicting the visceral, exciting crash that strands them. The protagonists' initial attempts at coping with their decidedly perilous situation are as intriguing and interesting as one might've hoped, and it certainly doesn't hurt that both Winslet and Elba are as expressive and sympathetic as one might've expected. It's clear, then, that the movie begins its steady downward trajectory as it progresses into its lackluster, wheel-spinning midsection, with the aggressive emphasis on Alex and Ben's low-key efforts at staying alive slowly-but-surely transforming The Mountain Between Us into a distressingly inert ordeal (eg there's just so much traveling and camping and bonding). The film's progressively flat and lifeless vibe is compounded by the romantic relationship that eventually forms between Winslet and Elba's respective characters, with their complete and total lack of chemistry together preventing one from working up any interest in their successful coupling - which, in turn, drains the overtly romantic final few minutes of any impact it might've had. It's ultimately impossible to label The Mountain Between Us as anything other than a well-intentioned misfire, and one can't help but wonder if the fairly ludicrous storyline worked better on the page. (It surely had to, right?)