Film Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Mira Nair’s adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s novel hooks viewers through its storytelling. With a compelling central character, The Reluctant Fundamentalist keeps its audience guessing.

Changez Khan is a Lahore University lecturer being interviewed by American journalist Bobby. An American professor has been kidnapped and Bobby questions Changez’s involvement in the incident. Changez, who spent a number of years in America, begins to tell his tale…

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is all about the grey areas. It offers a depiction of its protagonist as multi faceted, with different ideals and motivations. It is tricky to second guess Changez’s ultimate beliefs; it is this aspect that keeps the audience engaged. There is a scene in the first half of the film which is played twice, once with Bobby’s interpretation and the other with Changez’s account of events. This is emblematic of the entire film; both are plausible but it is unclear which is correct.

The film walks the fine line in depicting both fundamentalists and the CIA in a balanced light. Director Nair makes no discernible attempt to paint either side in a negative light. This is why The Reluctant Fundamentalist works. Instead of painting characters as heroes and villains, the main characters are given depth and appear realistic in their conflicts.

Performances all round are good. Riz Ahmed offers a convincing portrayal as Changez, both as the son of a Pakistani poet and a high flyer in Manhattan’s financial district. Leiv Schreiber is strong as Bobby, while Kate Hudson does well in her supporting role. The music is sometimes overpowering, but visuals are pleasing throughout.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist explores the idea of fundamentalism and what triggers it in an interesting manner. Moreover, it is an engrossing personal tale.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is being screened at the London Film Festival in October 2012.