Rated: R for language, some violence and brief sexuality. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: May 10, 2013 Released by:
Mira Nair's latest complex if ungainly sobering and timely drama is bookended by Changez Khan (Riz Ahmed) interviewed in Pakistan by reporter Billy Lincoln (Liev Schreiber) during a crisis.
In The Reluctant Fundamentalist (its connotation happens to be misleading) adapted by William Wheeler (The Hoax) from a thorny, intimate 2007 novel, a Pakistani Ivy League darling (Changez) finds success as an unwavering Wall Street analyst with an alluring artist girlfriend (a brunette Kate Hudson) and a boss (Kiefer Sutherland) who sees royalty in him.
Changez's journey should be more riveting than is presented here as the proceedings finally get incendiary but the filmmaker's insinuating tautness through scene selection and execution feels fractured and muddled. Whereas themes of Muslims assimilating in America and components of extremism never gather a deep or poignant momentum.
The cataclysmic events around September 11th brought him under scrutiny by nearly every kind of official prompting a return to Lahore University providing instruction on vicious upheavals. As a professor is violently kidnapped could Changez be one of its masterminds as the CIA appears to believe?
In its ambitious, provocative nature The Reluctant Fundamentalist locates the outrage from patriotism and prejudice as Ahmed adroitly is a guide through a tricky transmigration through insurgency and ruthlessness. It touches on aspirations and disillusionment as those Changez is closest to reflect the zeitgeist and hostility intrinsic to it.
Nair has handled cultural diversity in richly rewarding, riveting ways as in Monsoon Wedding or Mississippi Masala, but overall the shifting of the characters and their presence (is Lincoln perhaps a CIA operative?) within intricate situations don't elicit meaningful immediacy. It turn a little cheesy as the narrative machinations take hold.
Schreiber and Hudson do their best to be more than rote figures, but may be too caught in the slick churning for the material's marketing potential. Having his moments but lost in the connection around harassment and ignorance is the reliable veteran in Om Puri (Charlie Wilson's War, Gandhi) who is always welcome here as a poet father. Too bad this sometimes formidable "Fundamentalist" is reluctant to give a rather mesmerizing Ahmed the kind of pointed relevancy to rise above the weighted melodrama.
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