A compelling drama seemingly ripped from the headlines, "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" raises many questions while not being cut-and-dry about immigrant situations.
A smart Pakistani lands a terrific Wall Street job after graduating from Princeton, falls in love with an American artist, and has everything going for him when 9/11 happens. Suddenly, his world turns topsy-turvy. Racial profiling, many issues, and one calamity after another ensue.
While Changez (Riz Ahmed) loves America, he can't ignore his homeland and family. How he winds up as a radical Islamist is one twisted journey, but one can understand the devastating losses he suffers and the rampant fear that develops.
Riz Ahmed ("Trishna"), a British actor and music artist, is heartbreakingly good as the tormented young man. Liev Shrieber is his customary grounded supporting role, playing a cynical journalist. All grown up Kiefer Sutherland nicely plays Changez' mentor. Kate Hudson, free of the stupid romantic comedy roles she usually picks, has an interesting turn as the love interest.
Director Nair ("Monsoon Wedding") carefully tackles the sensitive politically and spiritually charged minefields here, but ultimately, this story is about people. The actors succeed in making this complex story an emotional journey that has thriller elements.
Adapted from a novel by Mohsin Hamid, this is a serious subject that certainly has talking points galore. But it doesn't want to be a lightning rod for left or right wing agendas.
What Doesn't Work
Because of the current world situation, the scope here can't encompass every issue the pundits wag about in the news. There is no easy conclusion. But it's worth investing the time to see how lives can be torn apart so swiftly in this scary 21st Century reality.
3 stars out of 4
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Liev Shrieber, Kiefer Sutherland
Director: Mira Nair
Rated: R for language, some violence and brief sexuality