The Reluctant Fundamentalist (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/05/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 128 mins

Engaging, beautifully shot drama with a commendably balanced script and a terrific central performance from Riz Ahmed, though the film is a good 20 minutes too long and gets bogged down in cliché towards the end.

What's it all about?
Directed by Mira Nair, The Reluctant Fundamentalist opens with a kidnapping in Pakistan, intercut with a Sufi music concert attended by political lecturer Changez Khan (Riz Ahmed), who spends large portions of the concert on his phone. A few days later, Changez meets with Pakistan-based US journalist Bobby Lincoln (Liev Schreiber) and relates his life story, beginning with a Princeton education that landed him a job as a high-flying financial analyst for a top Wall Street firm.

Changez's story includes being taken under the wing of his boss (Kiefer Sutherland) and falling in love with sexy photographer Erica (Kate Hudson), before the events of 9/11 bring him into contact with harassment and persecution from both officials and members of the public, eventually leading to his return to Pakistan. As the two men talk, it becomes clear that Bobby suspects Changez of being involved in the kidnapping, but is that really what's going on?

The Good
Riz Ahmed is terrific as Changez, delivering a complex, thoughtful performance that's extremely engaging. Schreiber is equally good as Bobby and there's strong support from Hudson (who's gone brunette for the occasion), Kiefer Sutherland (satisfyingly steely as Changez's boss) and Nelsan Ellis as Changez's Wall Street colleague.

The film is beautifully shot throughout, courtesy of Declan Quinn's sumptuous cinematography; it's also strikingly edited, with the Godfather-inspired opening sequence serving as an early highlight. In addition, the commendably balanced script does a good job of illustrating Changez's journey without demonising either side and Nair orchestrates a number of quietly brilliant sequences, such as Changez reacting to the 9/11 footage.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that it gets increasingly bogged down in cliché in the final section, with one scene in particular (involving Erica's art show installation) being so unconvincing as to be downright laughable. It's also fair to say that the film outstays its 130 minute running time somewhat, while the flashback structure has the frustrating effect of abandoning several of the film's characters (including Hudson and Om Puri as Changez's father).

Worth seeing?
The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a well made, beautifully shot and superbly acted drama with a refreshingly balanced script, though it's also slightly too long and is a little let down by a descent into cliché in the final section.

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Content updated: 17/10/2017 17:54

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