Reviewed byDharmendra SinghVote: 8/10/10
What a shame, though how predictable, that the multiplexes chose not toshow Mira Nair's brave and provocative political thriller about theintricacies of fighting extremist Islam.
Nair uses Mohsin Hamid's fictional novel to explore very real Westernattitudes towards the East in the ongoing 'war on terror'. She hasdirected a film of huge cultural, political and moral significance at acritical juncture between the Muslim and non-Muslim world.
Rising star Riz Ahmed (Four Lions) gives a memorable lead performanceas Changez, a Pakistani immigrant in New York, who has an identitycrisis in the wake of 9/11. He returns to live in Lahore when an MITprofessor has been captured and held ransom there by terrorists, whouse him as leverage to make demands of the US.
Posing as a journalist, Secret Service Agent Bobby Lincoln (LievSchreiber) visits Lahore to interview Changez, who has developed areputation for being anti-American. The US authorities believe thatChangez, if not a terrorist, at least knows something about thekidnapping. They exert pressure on him by harassing his family, a movewhich only deepens his hatred.
During their interview, Changez asks Bobby to make a judgement abouthim only after hearing his entire story, and Changez's reminiscenceallows for the film to unfurl as a flashback of epic proportions.
Raised in a secular, literate Muslim household in Pakistan, Changezfinds it easy to break the covenants of his religion. He consumesalcohol, eats pork and sleeps with non-Muslims, everything Islamforbids. He wins a scholarship to study at Princeton in the late 90s,where he claims never to have scored a B.
There he is headhunted to work for a prestigious valuation firm wherehe ensures a rapid promotion by impressing his boss (KieferSutherland). On the day of his promotion the towers come down. He tellsBobby that instead of feeling sadness, he felt awe. 'David had struckGoliath'.
Ahmed gave his most famous performance in Lions, but this is hisgreatest. As an 'Asian' (I abhor the term but include it for yourconvenience) man myself, I have long had to suffer stereotypicalperformances by brown-skinned actors, who are used by ignorantdirectors to add colour and Schadenfreude to their ignorant stories.Ahmed transcends all that. This time we're analysing the reactions ofWhite actors.
Changez's hatred of America germinates slowly, against his will, as hislife slowly falls apart. Colleagues turn on him. The bond he had withhis widowed girlfriend Erica (Kate Hudson) withers. Ordinary citizensview him as the enemy. His choice to move back to Pakistan is made forhim.
Nair purposely shows much of Changez's life back home, as one of herclear aims is to challenge some key stereotypes. Changez's father (OmPuri) is a distinguished poet, not a farmer or rickshaw puller. Thefamily is quite well off, not destitute. And the country is generallyshown to be colourful, vibrant and civilised, instead of corrupt,backward and dangerous, as we normally see.
The horror of the recent Woolwich (London) terrorist attack may dosomething to restrict the impact of this excellent film. Paradoxically,the attack serves to reinforce the arguments of the film. It makesseveral points, makes them powerfully and forces you to in futurequestion what you are told.
Reviewed bySandeep BanuVote: 8/10/10
This beautiful movie is about how the new era of fear is dividing Eastand West, featuring UK-based writer Mohsim Hamid's critically acclaimedbook, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, about the impact of Sept 11th onMuslims living abroad post 9/11 attacks & its psychological andpolitical damage. It's a tale of mixed loyalties and one man's journeyinto the heart of the conflict.
Hamid has published a novel about the aftermath of September 11th. It'sbased on a character whose life mirrors his own accomplishments, butwhose subsequent journey and fate is very different. The book isentitled "The Reluctant Fundamentalist".
The main character, Chengez, is living in New York at the time of theattacks. The new western hostility towards his country, to his people,and to an ancient and complex civilization shocks Chengez, to the core.He feels as though he has to take sides. Then, quite simply, he has acrackup, followed by a mysterious journey back to Pakistan that may ormay not lead to the embrace of fundamentalism.
At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with anuneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the talethat has brought them to this fateful encounter . . .
Changez is living an immigrant's dream of America. At the top of hisclass at Princeton, he works at the elite valuation firm of UnderwoodSamson. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his budding romancewith elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society atthe same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.
But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his position in hisadopted city suddenly overturned, and his budding relationship withErica eclipsed by the reawakened ghosts of her past. The romance isnegligible; Erica is emotionally unavailable, endlessly grieving thedeath of her lifelong friend and boyfriend, Chris. And Changez's ownidentity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances morefundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.
Told in a single monologue, the narrative never flags. Changez is byturn's naive, sinister, unctuous, mildly threatening, overbearing,insulting, angry, resentful, and sad.
Changez is in Manila on 9/11 and sees the towers come down on TV. Hetells the American, "...I smiled. Yes, despicable as it may sound, myinitial reaction was to be remarkably pleased... I was caught up in thesymbolism of it all, the fact that someone had so visibly broughtAmerica to her knees..." When he returns to New York, there is apalpable change in attitudes toward him, starting right at immigration.His name and his face render him suspect.
He exorcises that feeling and once again appreciates his home for its"unmistakable personality and idiosyncratic charm." While at home, helets his beard grow. Advised to shave it, even by his mother, herefuses.
His company sends him to Istanbul for another business valuation; hismind filled with the troubles in Pakistan and the U.S. involvement withIndia that keeps the pressure on. Beautiful screenplay and great Urdu-English blend of dialogues makes it really worth a watch on the bigscreen.
Reviewed bycinematic_aficionado (firstname.lastname@example.org)Vote: 7/10/10
Whilst it is tempting to dismiss this as just another 9/11 relatedtale, it goes a little deeper than one might think.
A young Pakistani whose upward path to wealth in the finance industryin New York is interrupted by the atrocities of September 11, 2001 whothen becomes the Asian looking man with a beard, the centre ofeveryone's suspicions. The country he had come to grow so fond of,suddenly puts him in a dark corner, which raises some uneasy questions;is hatred the response to hatred, or extremism the cure to extremism? Asingle event, with a chain of events that followed caused him toquestion everything.
This is a story about two extremes. On the one hand is the religiousfundamentalism which drives people to kill for the sake of dogma andblind obedience to a book whilst on the other hand lies the financialfundamentalism which drives people to gamble the livelihoods of othersfor the sake of individual profit maximisation and wealth accumulation.The former type of extremism is well noted and condemned, whilst thelatter is noted but not so openly condemned although it is possiblethat it is causing more damage than religious fundamentalism.Regardless where one stands on such issues this film puts a young manin the middle of two extremes.
Changez is a conflicted soul and whilst he starts out as a financialfundamentalist, should he not swap one extreme for another? Can herealise that fanaticism is harmful no matter whichever root it has?
An interesting, and very relevant film.
A young Pakistani man is chasing corporate success on Wall Street. He finds himself embroiled in a conflict between his American Dream, a hostage crisis, and the enduring call of his family's homeland.