05/09/2013 15:30 | By Anna Smith, contributor, MSN Movies

The Reluctant Fundamentalist: Movie review

Riz Ahmed goes from Wall Street star to terrorist suspect.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist (© Rex)

Release date: Friday May 10th
Certificate: 15
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, Liev Schreiber, Om Puri
Director: Mira Nair

What’s the story?
Pakistani intellectual Changez (Ahmed) stands accused of being involved with dangerous radicals. In Pakistan, he gives a rare interview to a journalist ((Liev Schreiber), telling how his life changed in New York after 9/11.

What did we think?
A long and complex film with variable performances, this still has plenty of merits, not least Ahmed’s impressive turn and the ideas raised by the script, based on the novel by Mohsin Hamid. There’s plenty of food for thought about political ideals, cross-cultural relationships, knee-jerk reactions to 9/11 and more.

Don’t judge a book by its cover: that’s one of the many messages of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a movie that examines perceptions of both radical Islam and the American Dream.

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As a Princeton-educated Pakistani working his way up Wall Street, Changez is caught in the middle of two worlds when 9/11 strikes. Suddenly, the company hotshot is being questioned at airports and regarded with suspicion simply because of his ethnicity. He’s been chasing the American Dream as much as anyone but this treatment starts to make him think twice.

We’ve seen these themes addressed before but they’re well handled by director Nair and star Ahmed, who puts in a career-best performance as the conflicted hero. Points for the casting of Kiefer Sutherland as Ahmed’s hard-nosed boss, although Kate Hudson seems a little uncomfortable in her role as Changez’ artist girlfriend. Their relationship is fitfully interesting but her character never really convinces, making one decision in particular that seems staggeringly stupid.

The tone of The Reluctant Fundamentalist veers between slick Wall Street drama, political thriller and character-driven romance. It never feels entirely confident in tone, but it’s still one to catch if you’re intrigued by the subject matter.

Three stars

Verdict: Involving themes and an impressive turn from Riz Ahmed help make this mixed bag worth a watch.


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