A superior film about paranoia, suspicion and the United States’ ingrained fear of all things non-American, Mira Nair’s adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s novel is a genuine star vehicle for Riz Ahmed, one of the quartet of Four Lions.
As the Ivy League scholar from Pakistan whose American dream becomes corrupted in the wake of 9/11 Ahmed goes on a painful journey. Surrounding him is a plausible depiction of radicalism and how it incubates and evolves. We first meet him being interviewed by journalist Liev Schreiber. As the tale unfolds – the film is related in flashback – we witness how a bright young man becomes an angry young man.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a film that wears its conscience on its sleeve. It also positively overflows with familiar faces. Kate Hudson is Ahmed’s girlfriend, Kiefer Sutherland his mentor, Om Puri his father and Shabana Azmi his mother. But what Nair is at pains to present is the grey hinterland that floods the landscape between perceived good and perceived evil. As Changez’s story winds to its conclusion – does he know what has happened to a kidnapped American; what is he hiding? – Nair and scriptwriter Ami Boghani bounce between several different scenarios. This is a quietly subversive film that dares to confront America’s rampant and deeply rooted prejudices.