The Reluctant Fundamentalist
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On September 11, 2001, thousands of lives were lost—and millions were changed forever. In the years since, we’ve watched as the consequences of the terrorist attacks have touched our lives and the lives of those around us in unexpected ways. And director Mira Nair’s tense character study, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, offers one character’s perspective on the aftermath of that Earth-shattering event.

When an American professor is kidnapped in Pakistan, journalist Bobby Lincoln (Liev Schreiber) sets out in search of answers. His search takes him to Changez (Riz Ahmed), a controversial young professor who’s rumored to be rising through the ranks of Pakistan’s anti-American movement.

As tensions rise and students and police begin to clash outside, Changez tells Bobby his story—the complicated story of an American dream that turned into a nightmare as the towers of the World Trade Center came crashing down.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is not always an easy film to watch. What starts out as the story of a young man on the road to success (and love) on Wall Street soon turns into a story of fear, hatred, and prejudice as Changez is unfairly targeted after 9/11. No matter where he goes—whether he’s in New York or Pakistan—he can’t escape it. And while his may be a perspective that you’ve considered once or twice in the years since the attacks, there’s a good chance that you haven’t seen it portrayed quite like this. The story is challenging and often heartbreaking—and, if you put yourself in the character’s shoes, you might just understand why some like him might feel compelled to fight back.

The film does an excellent job of showing the striking disparity between the slick, stark world of New York’s Wall Street and the character and mystery of Pakistan—and the cultural touches are often stunning. Unfortunately, though, Nair misses the opportunity to explore those differences in more depth by telling more than just Changez’s story. After all, both of the men in this film have stories to tell. Schreiber’s Bobby has his own perspective on the events—but while his viewpoint is mentioned, it isn’t explored. And instead of telling two sides of the story, it focuses more on a rather distracting—and somewhat irrelevant—love story between Changez and an American artist, played by Kate Hudson.

In the end, some viewers might see The Reluctant Fundamentalist as harsh—and perhaps a bit heavy-handed, too. And, unfortunately, the story is one-sided. But the story that it does tell is one that’s often overlooked—and, as a result, this suspenseful drama is a thoughtful (and thought-provoking) film that’s worth considering.

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