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Movie review: ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’

Posted 12:40pm on Thursday, May. 02, 2013

R (strong language, brief sexuality, violence); 128 min.


If there ever was a time to see The Reluctant Fundamentalist, that time is now.

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, with even President Barack Obama asking, “Why did young men who grew up and studied here as part of our communities and our country resort to such violence?” comes a smart, provocative film that compellingly addresses these kinds of concerns.

Directed by Mira Nair from Mohsin Hamid’s exceptional novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist does not offer answers but rather, of equal if not greater value, it presents different ways to frame the question.

With a potent piece of fiction as its starting point and a splendid performance by Riz Ahmed as its centerpiece, Reluctant Fundamentalist is richer in complexities than the films we usually get.

Bobby Lincoln (always solid Liev Schreiber) is an American journalist who has lived in Lahore, Pakistan, long enough to pick up a taste for drugs and a fluency in Urdu. The man he has shown up to interview, Changez Khan (Ahmed), is a professor who has a reputation for being “Pakistan’s new militant academic,” a man with a palpable grudge against the U.S.

Yet the first thing Changez tells Lincoln is that appearances can be deceptive. “I am a lover of America,” he says with complete sincerity, adding that for many years he was “a soldier in your economic army,” and a happy one at that. How that double transformation took place — how Changez went from Pakistani to American back to Pakistani — is what The Reluctant Fundamentalist is all about.

Ahmed is especially good at portraying all the different facets of this increasingly complex man, a fitting centerpiece to an increasingly intricate and involving film.

Exclusive: Landmark Magnolia, Dallas

— Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

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