REVIEW: THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST

CAST

Riz Ahmed (Rogue One)
Kate Hudson (Gossip)
Liev Schreiber (The 5th Wave)
Kiefer Sutherland (Pompeii)
Martin Donovan (Legends of Tomorrow)

In 2011, Anse Rainier (Gary Richardson), an American professor at Lahore University, is kidnapped soon after he leaves a cinema. A ransom video is sent to the US embassy, demanding the release of 690 detainees from what is described as a Muslim concentration camp in Kot Lakhpat and €700,000 for the children of Waziristan. Bobby Lincoln (Liev Schreiber), an American journalist and undercover CIA informant in Pakistan, arranges to interview a colleague of Rainer, Changez Khan (Riz Ahmed), whom he suspects is involved in the kidnapping.Changez starts off the interview, held in a café, by declaring his admiration for the American equal playing field in economic advancement. He belongs to a class of people who, while genteel and educated, increasingly find themselves left out of economic progress. His father is an elderly poet and man of letters (played by Om Puri), who is respected by all who know him. Nevertheless, money has always been a serious problem in the family and Changez was only able to attend college when he got a scholarship to Princeton University. After graduation, he earned a job position at a top Wall Street valuation firm, Underwood Samson. Meanwhile, he met a young American photographer, Erica (Kate Hudson), and a relationship developed.The World Trade Center attacks take place while Changez is in Manila on business. When he returns to the USA, he is strip-searched at the airport in New York. Later on, he is thoroughly interrogated by federal agents, after being mistakenly arrested in the street as he left the Underwood Samson building. His attitude toward the USA seems to change, as does his relationship with Erica, who has yet to come to terms with the loss of her former boyfriend, feeling responsible for his death. Changez eventually breaks up with her, after she invites him to the opening of her art show: she had used intimate details of their relationship without his knowledge, which he takes as a betrayal.While valuating a publishing house in Istanbul, Changez discovered that the otherwise worthless firm had translated some of his father’s work into Turkish and published them. He realised that the company had preserved culture, something that cannot be measured merely in terms of money. His boss at Underwood Samson, Jim Cross (Kiefer Sutherland), does not see it that way, viewing Changez’s attitude as unprofessional. Feeling an ever-increasing conflict between his desire of success and his sense of loyalty, between the way he saw himself and the way he was now treated, Changez finally resigns from Underwood Samson.During his interview with Lincoln, Changez says that at one point he was approached by a terrorist cell and asked to become a mujahid, and he was tempted to accept, feeling deeply angered and disillusioned by “the arrogance, the blindness, the hypocrisy” of the USA, but he finally refused when he was told about the “fundamental truths” of the Q’uran, echoing a phrase Jim Cross had used during their first encounter, “focusing on the fundamentals”. Elaborating on the similarities, he explains that both groups, Islamic fundamentalists and blind capitalist economy represented by Underwood Samson, share the same reductionist outlook, view people in binary terms, and thus feeling entitled to get rid of those deemed unworthy.157880843_d736f6Being a foreigner without a job, and with his work visa set to expire in two weeks, he returned to Lahore (Pakistan), where he found that foreign professors were leaving the university en masse. He was hired as a lecturer. He voiced dissatisfaction with US intrusions in Pakistan, and this brought him to the attention of the authorities as a suspected Al-Qaida member. They raided his office and family home and threatened his family. Back to present day, while Lincoln and Changez talk in the café, protestors gather outside, and Lincoln gets periodic pressure from his CIA superiors to get information from Changez about the location of the kidnapped Rainier. The protests become increasingly hostile, and Changez says he has heard of a butcher shop. Contact is lost before the information can be phoned to the CIA operatives who are working with Lincoln.image-w448Lincoln becomes suspicious seeing Changez texting, the latter saying he was just communicating with his sister, Bina (Meesha Shafi); suspicions turn to fury after Lincoln receives a picture of Rainer dead, mistakenly linking the two events. Lincoln believes the only way to safety is to use Changez as a shield venturing into the hostile crowded street. Attempts are made to keep the crowd stable but things get worse and Lincoln falls to the ground, his gun goes off and hits Sameer (Imaad Shah), one of Changez’s student interns, who dies from the wound. Another student fires at Lincoln from a balcony, wounding him, after which Lincoln is quickly removed by CIA agents. Lincoln then finds out that Rainer was in fact found dead earlier that day, and that Changez had indeed rejected working with the suspected mastermind behind the kidnapping, Mustafa Fazil. He also told the truth about the text message. Changez delivers a eulogy at Sameer’s funeral, as Lincoln recuperates in a hospital, recalling Changez’s words as he listens to the recording of the interview – “Looks can be deceiving. I am a lover of America… although I was raised to feel very Pakistani.”ChangezOverall, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is an engaging watch with a solid story, music, and acting….one of the best films of 2013!

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