The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Film Title: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Director: Mira Nair

Starring: Riz Ahmed Liev Schreiber Kate Hudson Kiefer Sutherland

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 130 min

Fri, May 10, 2013, 01:00

   

Pakistan-born, Princeton-educated Changez (Riz Ahmed) is what we used to call a master of the universe. A whip-smart boardroom gunslinger working for über- capitalist Keifer Sutherland’s meanie acquisitions firm, our hero gobbles up and spits out smaller, unprofitable companies. He has a hip (and strangely fragile) photographer girlfriend uptown (Kate Hudson) and no end of lucrative prospects.

Mira Nair’s heightened political drama kicks off in media res, so we’re aware from the get-go that Changez’s life as a high-flier has crashed down somewhere in the Middle East. Sure enough, as he subsequently reveals to a mercurial andan equally compromised reporter (Liev Schrieber), 9/11 changed everything for a young go-getter who suddenly found himself being called “Osama” on the streets of Manhattan.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist relies heavily on snappy coincidences and contrivances. Its diametric principal characters make one think of an overly co-ordinated matchy-matchy outfit; the rising tensions and crosscuts of the final section could determine the settings of an atomic clock; the neat oppositions between oriental and occidental culture might have been culled from Edward Said for Dummies.

Much of this loose and admittedly imaginative adaptation probably seemed more plausible in Moshin Hamid’s best-selling political thriller. A bombastic score doesn’t help the feeling that we’re watching Wall Street 3: The Lahore Connection.

For all these caveats, it’s hard to dismiss Ms Nair’s attempts to map out the anatomy of a potential terrorist. The actors, particularly Ahmed and Hudson, are excellent. And who doesn’t like a gander at Sutherland and Martin Donovan in arse-kicking humour?

As ever, Declan Quinn’s cinematography shimmers exactly when it ought to. And Nair’s attempts to distill global politics into neat drama is, for all the soap opera, never less than compelling.