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The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Directed by Mira Nair

UK, 2013

Cornerhouse, 1 June 2013

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

After 9/11 everything supposedly changed, including the lives of Pakistani economic analysts working on Wall Street.

Changez’s life (a brilliant performance by Riz Ahmed, he’s a movie star already) is quite conflicted before then, mind: his father, a poet, despises his son’s chosen profession as a Draconian downsizer and he asks Erica (Kate Hudson), a girl he has his eye on, to pretend he’s her dead boyfriend just so she’ll sleep with him.  He is already heading for a sorrowful crash/radical change when 9/11 happens.  His experience of the distrust towards difference so typical of Bush’s America is merely the tipping point.

As a film, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a triumph and this is due mainly to the pace of Mira Nair’s direction and Riz Ahmed’s compelling performance.  Changez tells his story in a bar in Lahore over the course of a day (there are extended flashbacks) so the drama is very tightly structured.

Yet on reflection, one cannot help feeling that the story has been contrived to make certain points: the kidnap victim (an American) isn’t entirely innocent, whereas Changez is  Whilst Erica, his American girlfriend,  needn’t have been such a monstrous mindfuck.

Still, it’s a telling footnote to the War on Terror.