Movie Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

by Tess Duncan

In the wake of 9/11, a Pakistani man named Changez Khan (Riz Ahmed) finds himself in a whirlwind of conflicting feelings and disturbing situations. Based on the eponymous novel by Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist begins with Changez answering a journalist’s questions for an article. He hopes Changez will reveal the location of a kidnapped American professor, but Changez has a different agenda in mind. He tells the story of his rise to success after moving from Pakistan to America and landing a job as a financial analyst for Jim Cross (Kiefer Sutherland) at a prestigious corporation on Wall Street. He meets Erica (Kate Hudson), a talented artist, and the two become an item despite a recent tragedy in her life. He receives an impressive promotion at work and is soon living the American Dream in every sense.

All of this changes on September 11, 2001. After the terrorist attacks, everything in Changez’s life becomes a struggle. Strictly because of his ethnicity, Changez is strip-searched, interrogated, and held in police custody. His personal property is destroyed and his previous feelings of love and appreciation for the U.S. turn to bitter rage. Ahmed gives a thrillingly complex performance as a man whose trust in America is replaced with hurt and disdain, while Sutherland plays the perfect corporate big shot.

Despite a few loose ends in plot, The Reluctant Fundamentalist tackles relevant socio-political and cultural issues in a poignant manner. Given the recent bombings in Boston, the film brings up fitting points of contention involving terrorism and globalization without sounding too preachy. Director Mira Nair gives us a distressingly accurate glimpse into the xenophobia and injustice of America post-9/11. 

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is set for limited release on April 26, coming to theaters nationwide on May 10.

Photo via Toronto International Film Festival

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