2012 Running time: 130 Certificate: 15 Rating: 3
The Reluctant Fundamentalist KA

Synopsis

Charismatic Brit Riz Ahmed is perfectly cast as Changez Khan, a Princeton-educated Pakistani who had Wall Street in his hand before 9/11 soured his American dream. Now a lecturer back in Lahore, Changez finds himself telling his story to a US journalist (Liev Schreiber) while under suspicion for the recent kidnapping of a foreign professor. Tension and alienation fed by fear and mistrust: the 9/11 effect is deftly encapsulated in this absorbing adaptation of the novel by Moshin Hamid, enhanced by Mira Nair's level-headed direction and interesting support from Kate Hudson and Keifer Sutherland.

Director

  • Mira Nair

Cast

  • Riz Ahmed

  • Kate Hudson

  • Liev Shreiber

  • Kiefer Sutherland

  • Om Puri

Review

You've got to admire a movie that demands to be taken seriously after casting Keifer Sutherland as a prissy version of Alan Sugar and Kate Hudson as, well, anyone.

But while nobody steals Riz Ahmed's star-making thunder as the titular protagonist of Moshin Khan's Booker-shortlisted tale, they - like everyone else in this thought-provoking adaptation - are entirely fit for purpose.

We begin in 2010 Lahore, where popular university lecturer Changez Khan (Ahmed) is being interviewed by US journalist Bobby Lincoln (Schreiber) about his past in America - and what he knows about the kidnapping of a faculty colleague by local extremists.

With the CIA closing in, Changez tells of his rise as a ruthlessly efficient Wall Street analyst under Sutherland's constantly impressed mentor and his love affair with bohemian photographer Erica (Hudson).

Then 9/11 comes and Changez becomes another victim - of mistrust and harassment. The changing perceptions of others - and his own ambiguous feelings about events - force him to think about who he really is and what he stands for.

Yet for all his apparent openness, to Lincoln he remains an enigma.

Ahmed conveys the complexities of the character brilliantly, effortlessly peeling back the layers in a tour de force of subtlety and charisma.

Although Mira Nair's direction is not quite as revelatory (any excuse for a bit of cultural colour), the story's injustices allow her to show a harder edge than she's previously demonstrated in the likes of Monsoon Wedding and Vanity Fair.

Her measured approach serves the characters well, but comes at the expense of any tension she attempts to create around the hostage situation. At times it's like channel-hopping between Homeland and The Apprentice.

The film also treads carefully around religion, being more concerned with faith and belief in people. Which is where the performances come into their own.

Ultimately, it's a story of identity. One that's particularly relevant to a world where a man can arouse suspicion simply by growing a beard.

Elliott Noble