Mira Nair’s new movie, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is based on a novel by Mohsin Hamid. It is about a young Pakistani, Changez (Riz Ahmed), who reached his American dream at the young age of 25. But he finds it crumbling before his eyes after 9/11.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist shows the promises that the nation has to offer and the ways they can be denied. It is a story of how identities are adopted and lost due to frustration or hate. Changez opts for the path of nonviolence. Well, this is what the movie wants viewers to believe.
The title is more than just religious fundamentalism. Nair is not quite sure what to do with the movie. The novel was in the form of a monologue with Changez telling his story to a nameless American in a café in Lahore. The movie tries to fill in the blanks but it seems like it added too much details to the story.
The nameless American in the book is now an international reporter Bobby Lincoln (Live Schreiber), who may or may not be involved with the CIA. Changez is a professor who may or may not be teaching his students about insurgency. In the opening sequence, an American professor (Gary Richardson), is kidnapped.
Instead of taking place in a café, the interview takes place in a university hangout with the Pakistani police outside in the streets and the students are preparing for a riot. The movie segues to flashbacks as Changez tells his story.
Ahmed is the shining star in The Reluctant Fundamentalist. He is a natural movie star that makes the story believable. Changez is the son of an upper-class Pakistani poet. He used to be a highly paid financial expert until the twin towers were destroyed.
Changez is full of compassion. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is about finding yourself when other people are certain that they already know you. The movie is a simple story but Nair complicates it with suspense. She manages to trample the agonies of the book’s character study.