The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2013) – Review


Celebrated Director Mira Nair, who holds the reins quite firmly here, stated that she wanted this film to ‘start a conversation’. This is, we can assume, with regard to the politics therein.

Well, it could have been titled, ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover’, or ‘Be careful what you wish for’, as both would have been suitable. TRF takes a road less travelled by Hollywood and as a temperature gauge for the neutral amongst us in general, this is as good a place as any for the less politically enthusiastic to gain an understanding of something I personally hold dear to my heart. I am not referring to the politics of either side that is definitively mapped out here, but the philosophy behind the tale, that being one of open-minded, intelligent curiosity with a side order of sometimes incredulous cynicism for both sides of the argument.

Involving itself mostly with the story of one young Pakistani man, Changez (Riz Ahmed) that leaves his hometown, heading for the bright lights of the free west (USA) to become a big corporate noise in the City.

Highlighting the difficulty of culture shock and traditional family values, TRF chooses to focus on the conflict of interests and honour for this one man as he tries to leave behind a life less savoury (in some eyes) for a promising career and unlimited opportunity.

Having not read the original work by Mohsin Hamid, I cannot say that this is a deserving conversion from book to screen, but accusations of a disjointed screenplay don’t appear as obvious to those that haven’t read the text. To only come up short in this department is still something of a feat, however, should it be true.

As a comment on 9/11, an event that takes place while Changez is in America, it is not really effective, but I don’t think this was even the plan in the first place, treating the tragedy with lip service as much as anything else. When Changez grows a beard and becomes the victim of what appears to be unwarranted suspicionĀ  of an Asian man on American soil after these events, the film still seems to be making more of a comment about the Changez than the responses to him by everybody he comes into contact with. In that respect, the film is a success, as what wasn’t really required was another 9/11 told from any perspective, least of all one that could be accused of being less than sympathetic to the people that died there.

Excellent acting from all concerned and a decent, if not buzzing, script that led the plot and the audience nicely by the arm throughout. It is a question of personal choice as to what you get from this film and many may be angered as cheered by it, but it can not be stated firmly enough that this is a political thriller and that may not suit everyone. A better, less Hollywood, film than Zero Dark Thirty, but could well be viewed as inciteful as well as insightful.

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