The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Based on Mohsin Hamid’s novel of the same name, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a romance film masquerading as a political thriller, directed by Mira Nair.
As a framing device, Changez (Riz Ahmed – Four Lions) is a young professor at the University of Lahore who has reluctantly agreed to be interviewed by American reporter Bobby (Liev Schrieber – Scream, Salt). Changez tells Bobby the story of his life, starting in Lahore as a young man, his university days in America, working as a financial analyst on Wall Street, and ultimately returning to Pakistan.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist was always going to be difficult to translate to the big screen. As a first-person coming-of-age story connected with a third party, generating objective narrative must have been a difficult task. This leads to one of the central problems of the film: it appears as though Nair never decided what sort of film she was trying to make. The framing narrative seems to suggest a high energy political thriller, but the tale Changez relates to Bobby is mainly an uninspiring romance. With so much going on, everything feels a little underdeveloped, which is disappointing, considering the film weighs in at over two hours. The seeds of interesting stories are there, but none of them receive enough nourishment to keep the audience interested.
The direction and cinematography are somewhat perfunctory. At one point the events of 9/11 are projected onto Changez’s face – it’s cheesy and representative of the general level of imagery. Kate Hudson’s role diminishes the impact of the romantic strife, but Riz Ahmed is a redeeming feature, performing very well and helping to rescue the film.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist feels like a wasted opportunity. Most of the film feels like it is leading somewhere interesting, but it’s ultimately directionless.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist is released nationwide on 10th March 2013.
Watch the trailer for The Reluctant Fundamentalist here