Thursday, April 11, 2013

“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” – Movie Review




This week in my movie class, we had a screening of Mira Nair’s new drama, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” starring Liev Schreiber, Kate Hudson and Kiefer Sutherland.


After a young Pakistani man returns home following several years in the United States, he suddenly finds himself the target of an investigation for a kidnapped American – but will he be able to prove his innocence in time for the hostage to be rescued?


Changez (Riz Ahmed) leaves his family in Lahore, Pakistan while seeking his fortune in the United States. Following graduation from an Ivy League school, he goes to work for Jim Cross (Sutherland) at a major financial institution in New York City, where he proves to be a quickly-rising superstar. Shortly after starting his job, he meets an aspiring photographer named Erica (Hudson), the beautiful niece of the company’s owner. A mutual attraction develops between them, but their romance is stymied once Changez realizes Erica is mourning over her deceased ex-boyfriend.

Complicating both his personal and professional life are the events of 9/11, which occur during a business trip with Jim in the Philippines. Upon Changez’s return home, he finds the response of his adopted country is that it has been engulfed in terrorist paranoia and its citizens have become extremely suspicious of Muslims either residing in or visiting the United States. Even more hurtful is the behavior he observes by Erica, who uses the opportunity of a gallery opening to showcase her work by exploiting their relationship and playing into the fear of fellow New Yorkers.

Having enough of the nation’s general distrust and bigotry – not to mention a substantial degree of disillusionment with his job – Changez resigns from his position and heads back to his family in Lahore. Eventually, he is able to secure a position as a professor at a local college, where it turns out that the militant students are terrorist sympathizers in their anti-American rhetoric; many of them wind up being recruited by various terrorist organizations. Ultimately, Changez submits to an interview by Bobby (Schreiber), a Pakistan-based American journalist, after an American is kidnapped in Lahore.  The interview forces Changez to realize the CIA suspect both he and his school are connected to the crime. But with the kidnappers threatening to kill their hostage, will Changez be able to prove his innocence and prevent his death?


It would certainly be convenient to report that a collection of interesting scenes all add up to a good movie, which I’ve quite often found to be true, generally speaking. However, in the case of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, this is regrettably not the case. The film is based on a novel – in fact, its author is credited as being one of the screenwriters; structurally, this story may have worked better when reading it in its original form, but the way it’s laid out in this adaptation, it lacks sufficient dramatic momentum to propel the story forward.

Unfortunately, the way the story is told in the movie, there’s too much start and stop, killing its progress; it alternates between present day and flashback so much that you lose the sense of urgency that initially set the story in motion, which was the kidnapping. When the kidnapping occurs, this action automatically creates something of an implied ticking clock for the story – especially after you see the kidnapper’s video with their hostage – in order to create the requisite exigency to reach a conclusion within a couple of hours.

Following the screening, our instructor interviewed Lydia Dean Pilcher, the producer of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”. Pilcher said that she wound up getting involved in the project at the urging of the film’s director, with whom she’s worked on other motion pictures. Director Mira Nair had been sent a copy of the novel prior to its publication; having read it, she immediately wanted to make it into a movie and asked Pilcher to serve as its producer. Pilcher said that it took several years to get the picture made because she wound up having to spend several years (and plenty of dollars in option money) to raise the $11 million needed for the production.



The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012) on IMDb 6.2/10

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