By William Wolf

TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2012--THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST  Send This Review to a Friend

The persistent question of how a person forms political or religious views and how events in life can weigh heavily and turn someone toward a particular direction are examined in a dramatic film by director Mira Nair. Using a screenplay by William Wheeler, Ami Boghani and Moshin Hamid, based on Hamid’s book, the talented Nair has plunged deeply into making the story come alive for moviegoers, thriller style.

If you know Nair’s work, you can reliably expect that her film will be packed with atmosphere and impressive visuals wherever she is filming. This tale begins in Lahore, where an American journalist (Liev Schreiber) is listening to the story by a Pakistani man named Changez, portrayed by Riz Ahmed. The film flashes back a decade to the United States and Changez’s life in America.

Changez is pursuing the American dream. After university, he has begun working his way up on Wall Street. He has a girlfriend, Erica, played by the attractive Kate Hudson. The future looks bright indeed. But with the attack on the Trade Towers on 9/11, Changez’s dreams start to fall apart.

Nair boldly follows what has happened in America as paranoia set in following the attack on American soil. People begin to look with suspicion on those with a background like that of Changez. Thus perceived, he is arrested, humiliated and questioned as if he were a terrorist lurking in the country and perhaps connected with 9/11 or planned assaults. His plight illustrates what civil libertarians have been crying out against, the unjust treatment of totally innocent individuals.

Instead of protecting the country, the authorities launch a process that can achieve what they fear, turning a decent human being into an enemy. Kiefer Sutherland and Om Puri also have roles in this thought-provoking and exciting story told with Nair’s special flair. Throughout, Riz Ahmed gives a moving and perceptive performance that earns our admiration.

  

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