Sunday 20 October 2019

Fundamental changes

Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington

Film Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist (15A, general release, 130 minutes) ***

Director: Mira Nair Stars: Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber, Kiefer Sutherland

It's remarkable how banal and inadequate most literary and cinematic examinations of 9/11 have been to date.

Most books and movies about the event have failed utterly to capture its devastating impact, but Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid came closer than most.

Mira Nair's film is based on his 2007 novel, which had a very clever premise. Changez Khan (Riz Ahmed) is an ambitious young man from Lahore whose dreams come true when he wins a place at Princeton University.

Changez has always loved America, its ideals of freedom and a level playing field, and after graduating from university he lands a highly paid job as an investment analyst at a Wall Street corporation.

His oily boss, Jim Cross (Kiefer Sutherland) senses his innate ruthlessness and begins grooming him for higher things. And Changez seems to have integrated perfectly into Manhattan society when he begins dating an artist (Kate Hudson). But everything changes after the planes hit the Twin Towers, for Changez and America.

Though very entertaining, Nair's film feels rather trite compared to the book, and is hampered by miscasting (Kate Hudson seems totally out of place) and a clumsy structure.

Changez's story is told in flashbacks to a CIA agent (Liev Schreiber) in a Lahore café.

Changez's journey has the bracing feel of a television mini-series, but the script's attempts to equate laissez faire capitalism with Islamic fundamentalism are heavy-handed, and wide of the mark.

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