Based on the 2007 novel by Moshin Hamid, directed by Mira Nair, far exceeded the limited and problematic boundaries of the book; blatant honesty informs intelligent characters: flawed, wounded, irrevocably altered by heinous, untoward circumstances; Ms. Nair and fine acting gift viewers a raw, realistic, radical story of metamorphosis, indoctrination, transformation from the benign to “the reluctant fundamentalist” .
Riz Ahmed, as (“Changez (Urdu, Genghis) Khan”) a Pakistani-born, Princeton graduate) was molded for the role; beautiful, with a voice that could seduce Homer’s Sirens, even in the quietest moments his aura is positively, pungently powerful. “Changez” has it all: he is a wizard, soon-to-be “Master of the Universe” at a Wall Street Financial Firm; a gorgeous, talented girlfriend “Erica”(a mature, dark-haired Kate Hudson); he is soaring, inebriated with the American fantasy, all highways gilded, leading to the pot at the end of the rainbow, until 9/11/01, “the day the music died”.
The movie’s magic lies in the gradual demise of “Changez”; racial profiling at the airport, shunned on the streets of his adopted and loved New York City, he slowly sinks into uncertainty, isolation; bearded, floundering, eventually looking for solace, solutions in Islam. No matter personal ethnicity, you understand his disillusionment and eventual choices.
The movie is a series of flashbacks: relayed by Changez to journalist “Bobby Lincoln” (a very seasoned portrayal by Liev Schreiber) in a dingy, immaculate-challenged restaurant, in Lahore, Pakistan. Remarkable transitions, revelations, developments are tightly wrought, triggering unnerving, chilling tension, friction between the two men.
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” raises a myriad of questions; minimal proselytization; at its core is the quest to discover one’s true identity, acknowledge imperfections and ultimately in the words of Polonius “to thine own self, be true”.
Mira Nair’s film should be seen by all in these troubled times.