RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST, THE
In the wake of 9/11, smart young Pakistani, Changez (Riz Ahmed), chases corporate success on Wall Street, working for Jim Cross (Kiefer Sutherland) in the prestigious financial consultancy Underwood Samson. Living in the suspicious, terrorism-altered Western world, he is often singled out by authorities simply because he looks like a Muslim. He falls in love with Erica (Kate Hudson) but ultimately finds himself embroiled in a conflict between his American Dream, a hostage crisis in Pakistan, and the enduring call of his family's homeland. He tries to tell his complicated story to columnist Bobby Lincoln (Liev Schreiber), but perceptions and mistrust overwhelm them both.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
William Wheeler has forged a richly complex, achingly satisfying screenplay from Mohsin Hamid's hugely popular, Booker Prize shortlisted novel and Mira Nair has turned it into a significant and powerful film with something to say. Much to say, in fact. Human nature is under the writer's microscope in a tense story of contemporary socio political relevance. Fundamentalism, whether of the capitalist or religious kind, are explored and presented as evil twins whose destructive consequences are inevitable.
Riz Ahmed is superb as Changez (pronounced with a hard g), creating a multi dimensional character as he struggles with the demands of his torn world. Kate Hudson is solid as the brunette who falls in love with him, and her guilt ridden reluctance (related to her previous lover) is in subtle confluence with Changez's political reluctance.
Kiefer Sutherland is steely and mesmerising as Jim Scott, the corporate killer, and Liev Schreiber is terrific as Bobby Lincoln, a columnist and more, on a desperate mission to save an American taken hostage in Pakistan - where Changez is a professor, some 10 years after his arrival in New York.
Nair uses the time jumps effectively, to both heighten tension and to maintain the storyline and she also uses music to great effect, including the score by Declan Quinn. Cinematography is excellent, and production design helps transport us seamlessly to both New York and Lahore.
The film explores profound and timely issues in depth, and offers no pat answers to the problems that it raises, but it does make some significant points that both the West and its angry enemies should consider.
Review by Louise Keller:
The advent of 9/11 is the catalyst that brings about a U-Turn in this adaptation of Mohsin Hamid's novel about identity, values and truths. Director Mira Nair embraces the subject matter with great passion, bringing with her film a sense of idealism as it tosses up questions about morality, loyalty and the fundamental truths that make us who we are. Some of the story telling may be cluttered, but the essence of the story soars as consequences become the ultimate price of decisions taken. Riz Ahmed delivers a towering performance as Changez, the son of a Pakistani poet who achieves the American Dream before finding his own truth.
The story is framed by an interview between the influential lecturer Changez (Ahmed) has become and journalist Bobby Lincoln (Liev Schreiber) following the explosive climate when a US citizen has been kidnapped. The interview is granted on condition that Lincoln listens to the whole story, which begins 10 years earlier when Changez leaves Lahore for the level playing field of America, where he blends into New York's skyscraper 'temples of money and steel' and becomes one of the men wearing expensive tailored suits as a highly paid financial analyst.
Changez acquires the American Dream through his innate skills and hard work. The early scenes in which he climbs the corporate ladder are made all the more engrossing by Keifer Sutherland, who is superb as the boss who sees immediately Changez's potential. Kate Hudson is an interesting addition as Changez bohemian artist girlfriend who is carrying the weight of guilt, which eventually becomes sprayed over their relationship.
The fleeting sense of awe to which Changez admits when watching 'the ruthlessness' of 9/11, is surprisingly not developed further by Nair, but is inevitably the turning point for things to come. Suddenly the firm's youngest associate partner finds himself the subject of discrimination in the street based on his ethnic appearance. Additionally he is apprehended and humiliated before a personal betrayal that is the final straw. Nair's depiction of all these factors allows us to understand the shift on the see-saw of loyalties that are the basis for this powerful story.
With its engaging themes and thought provoking outcomes, there are many things to recommend in this film, not the least being the depiction of the vast divide between lifestyles and beliefs of the cultures. This alone forms the springboard for lively debate and discussion.
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RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST, THE (M)
CAST: Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber, Kiefer Sutherland, Nelsan Ellis, Adil Hussain, Martin Donovan, Om Puri, Shabana Azmi, Christopher Nicholas Smith, Victor Slezak,
PRODUCER: Lydia Dean Pilcher
DIRECTOR: Mira Nair
SCRIPT: William Wheeler (novel by Mohsin Hamid)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Declan Quinn
EDITOR: Shimit Amin
MUSIC: Michael Andrews
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Michael Carlin
RUNNING TIME: 126 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 23, 2013