Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Critics were not particularly kind to this film by Indian director Mira Nair, and unfortunately that probably means that far too few people will see it. The movie weaves the slow paced life story of Changez Khan into a dialogue set against very immediate tensions in Lahore, Pakistan. Those tensions - typical tensions ramped up by the kidnapping of an American professor - remind us of the very real effects that all of the little details in a life have (the relationships, conversations, mis-steps etc).

There is a lot to like about this movie. The music is beautifully done - most of it Pakistani. There are glimpses on what typical interactions between America and Pakistan can be like (apart from what one sees on the news). The politics are handled with something approaching the relative complexity it deserves. There is a clear, though not directly stated, link made between American bottom-line business tactics and the problems that contribute to the mixed appreciation and dismissal toward America that is felt by many in countries like Pakistan. The acting was very solid.

But the best part of the film is that it tells the story of a young man whose journey is relatively universal. He sets out from home with ambitions and dreams, only to struggle to find his identity and vocation as he becomes experienced and broken. The conversation with the Turkish publisher was a highlight that I hope will stay with me.

It seems to be a growing pattern that I am particularly drawn to films that a portion of critics find "heavy-handed." From where I sit, most of these critiques seem like they're coming from those who don't like to see their own positions questioned in a powerful way. I'm sure that I am less impressed when a movie seems to make a strong point I disagree with (The Pursuit of Happyness comes to mind - though I appreciated the film) but I hope that I don't blame those involved for being too didactic when the characters are as real and nuanced as they are in a film like The Reluctant Fundamentalist. This is worth seeing and I give it ***+

1 comment:

  1. Finally had a chance to watch this. While I agree with much of what you say, especially about the importance and universality of the story and the great scene with the Turkish publisher, I was not as impressed with the acting. Riz Ahmed was excellent in the lead role, but I wasn't as impressed with Kate Hudson and even less so with Liev Schreiber. The climactic scene with Schreiber near the end of the film should have been much better (more intense and realistic) than it was. So we have two mugs up on this one, and I might even let it slide into the ***+ range, but this would not have made by top twelve.