Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Credit: Archant

Adapted from the 2007 novel by Mohsin Hamid, this thriller centres on a conversation between a Pakistani professor and an American investigative journalist that might in fact be a battle of wits between a terrorist and a CIA operative.

An Islamic fundamentalist group kidnaps an American college professor in Lahore in 20111 and holds the national in exchange for a ransom and the release of prisoners.

The next day, a western journalist (Liev Schreiber) goes to interview university lecturer Changez (Riz Ahmed) for an article on extremist academics, but also in the hope of trying to persuade him to help locate the missing academic.

Ahmed begins by saying that he loves America and would Schreiber kindly listen while he tells him the story of his life, starting with the moment more than 10 years before when he had arrived in New York set for a dazzling career as a business analyst.

Following the September 11 attacks, Changez confesses that he endured prejudice due to his appearance, which put a strain on his relationship with his beautiful girlfriend, Erica (Kate Hudson). Changez's journey of self-discovery takes him back to Pakistan, where he lectures on revolution, making him a person of interest to US authorities.

As the professor shares his story, CIA agent Ludlow Cooper (Martin Donovan) listens intently to the conversation, hoping Changez might inadvertently give away clues about the abduction.

The film's immediate problem is its predictability. The title is giveaway enough and the film is really a matter of sitting tight for two hours as he relates the wholly predictable tale of how his American dreams are blighted by the aftermath of 9/11.

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The film does try to generate some tension through the head-to-head between Ahmed and Schreiber and there are a couple of twists thrown in but it is only in the last 10 minutes when there is any real uncertainty in the narrative. It is like sitting through a 0-0 draw waiting for the penalty shootout.


Director: Mira Nair

Sarring: Riz Ahmed, Liev Schreiber, Kiefer Sutherland, Kate Hudson, Nelsan Ellis and Martin Donovan

Length: 128 mins