Mira Nair’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is a study of ambition, materialism, and transition. It reminds us that although you may think you have control of things in life, curveballs are common.
Changez Khan (Riz Ahmed) is an ambitious young Pakistani living in his homeland and obsessed with the “American Dream.” He plans to move to America, attend Princeton, and then set New York City on fire with his success, which he does as a financial analyst ─ until life smacks him down with an unexpected crisis: 9/11. Kahn’s world comes crumbling down as he watches the Twin Towers collapse. His artist girlfriend Erica (Kate Hudson) and his money-grubbing boss Jim Cross (Kiefer Sutherland) are now seen through different eyes.
After the attacks, Khan himself is now being looked at through different eyes. Custom officials cavity search him, the police bring him in for questioning, and even the FBI gets into the act when they interrogate him about terrorists activities. Kahn does not help matters by growing a Mullah-type beard (a kind of throw it in your face attempt at retaliation). When Kahn shows up for work, his co-workers begin to become jaded, and to complicate matters Jim Cross sends him on assignment in Turkey where his mission will be to shut down a publishing company and fire everyone. During the trip to Turkey, Kahn has a “come to Allah” party and quits his job. He realizes that he is exploiting people in third world countries by being a hatchet man for an imperialist cause and he returns home.
The story is narrated by Kahn to American journalist Bobby Lincoln (Liev Schrieber) in the Pak Tea House (a real location) in Lahore, Pakistan. Kahn has traded in his suit and tie for a traditional Pakistani robe and he now teaches at the university. He has not abandoned America, yet his teachings are semi-radical. Bobby Lincoln has another interest though. An American has been kidnapped and Bobby feels Kahn has something to do with it. Who is Bobby Lincoln and what is his mission?
Riz Ahmed is very convincing as the ambitious, American bound Pakistani, and Kiefer Sutherland, despite having a brief role as the overbearing boss is excellent. Kate Hudson (who appears to be bloated or pregnant) is believable as Kahn’s lover. Overall, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” which is based on a best seller from Mohsin Hamid is a very contemplative piece of work. Rent it at Redbox. (Rated R; 130 minutes).
Note: Make sure you hang around for Peter Gabriel’s sound track at the end of the movie.
My Rating: 4 of 5 Fundamentalist.