Roush Review: Pushing for Middle East Peace in HBO’s ‘Oslo’

Ruth Wilson Andrew Scott Oslo
Review

High drama on an international stage, this film version of the Tony-winning play is more timely than ever in the wake of the recent clashes in Israel and Gaza, as Oslo depicts the secret negotiations that led to the historic 1993 Oslo Peace Accords.

Playwright J.T. Rogers and director Bartlett Sher have adroitly tightened their three-hour Broadway opus into a taut and unexpectedly emotional two-hour docudrama, in which Israelis and Palestinians attempt against the odds to give peace a chance. The unlikely setting: a sprawling private estate in icy Norway, where junior diplomat Mona Juul (The Affair‘s Ruth Wilson) contrives with her sociologist husband Terje Rød-Larsen (Fleabag‘s Andrew Scott) to bring together skeptical representatives from both sides of the seemingly unbreachable divide.

No matter how heated it gets, the couple insists they are there to facilitate only, not to be seen as advocates, even as Mona’s superiors see them as meddling in affairs above their pay grade. They further risk global backlash by keeping the U.S. ignorant of their closed-doors shadow diplomacy.

“I have never met an Israeli face to face,” admits the wary Ahmed Qurie (Fauda‘s Salim Daw), the PLO’s Finance Minister, before accepting the invitation. And it gets off to a rocky start when his associate, PLO liaison Hassan Asfour (Waleed Zualter), fails the small-talk test when an Israeli academic tries to break the ice by commenting on the weather, only to hear, “Not as cold as the hearts of your jackbooted Zionist soldiers as they break the bones of the sons and daughters of Gaza.”

Oslo HBO

HBO

Ouch. Can these negotiations be saved?

It’s waffles to the rescue, as the adversaries learn to lighten up over a series of shared meals and private jokes. “Here we are all friends,” insists the idealistic Terje. “It’s only in the sharing of the private that we can see each other for who we are truly are.”

This is history told on a refreshingly human scale.

Oslo, Movie Premiere, Saturday, May 30, 8/7c, HBO