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.

London Film Festival 2012 Launch

The BFI London Film Festival’s full programme was announced on Wednesday 5th September. This year, the festival is slightly shorter (twelve days instead of fourteen), but screenings will take place at more venues around London. Prior to the launch, it was announced that Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie would open the festival, and the new adaptation of Great Expectations would close it.

There are not many surprises in the programme. One change to this years proceedings is the dividing of films into new categories such as ‘Love’ and ‘Thrill’. I’m not sure exactly how this will pan out for films more difficult to define. The gala screenings offer some anticipated films, such as Ben Affleck’s Argo and Hyde Park on Hudson, starring Bill Murray. Documentaries that look interesting include The Central Park Five, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, and Love, Marilyn. Also to look out for are Seven Psychopaths, Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time, Antiviral and The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

The BFI London Film Festival runs from 10 – 21 October 2012.