This incendiary latest from Mira Nair deals with the minutiae of eastern and western social politics in the post 9/11 world.
Adapted from Mohsin Hamid’s 2007 novel of the same name, Mira Nair’s thorny drama, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, deals with the minutiae of eastern and western social politics post 9/11, as experienced first-hand by a Muslim man torn between the two prevailing forces in his life: dreams and family.
Riz Ahmed has never been better as Changez; a young Pakistani who immigrates to the land of opportunity and quickly finds himself rising the corporate ladder at a top consultancy firm in New York as a self-made "soldier in the economic army". Another piece of the puzzle falls neatly into place when Changez meets emotionally damaged artist Erica (Kate Hudson), and the two form a happy and loving bond. Then the planes hit.
Changez finds himself on the receiving end of a xenophobic witch-hunt, and as everything he’s worked so hard for suddenly starts to unravel, his thoughts turn to home. Angry and with a score to settle, he turns his back on his new life and heads back to Lahore determined to arm the next generation of Ivy League hopefuls with the tools of militant academia. At least, that’s according to American journalist turned spook Bobby (Liev Schreiber), who’s investigating the abduction of a US professor by a group of religious fundamentalists in the region.
This is a film about challenging perceptions, and it is to Nair’s credit that a narrative device as commonplace as ‘looks can be deceiving’ is used to such intriguing effect. Make no mistake, there is no happy ending here; Islamic fundamentalism and American capitalism don’t ride off into the sunset together. Instead it is left to Changez, not as a hero or a villain but as a victim, to show that mankind’s greatest enemy is his own ignorance.