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The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2013)



Average Rating: 6.1/10
Reviews Counted: 93
Fresh: 50 | Rotten: 43

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is technically proficient, with solid acting and cinematography, but its message is so ambitious and heavy-handed that some of its power is robbed.


Average Rating: 6.3/10
Critic Reviews: 30
Fresh: 13 | Rotten: 17

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is technically proficient, with solid acting and cinematography, but its message is so ambitious and heavy-handed that some of its power is robbed.



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Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 5,284

My Rating

Movie Info

We begin in 2011 in Lahore. At an outdoor café a Pakistani man named Changez (Riz Ahmed) tells Bobby (Liev Schreiber), an American journalist, about his experiences in the United States. Roll back ten years, and we find a younger Changez fresh from Princeton, seeking fortune and glory on Wall Street. The American Dream seems well within his grasp, complete with a smart and gorgeous artist girlfriend, Erica (Kate Hudson). But when the Twin Towers are attacked, a cultural divide slowly begins to


Mystery & Suspense

William Wheeler

Aug 27, 2013


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All Critics (93) | Top Critics (30) | Fresh (50) | Rotten (43)

It's a timely narrative subject, but its treatment in The Reluctant Fundamentalist is fundamentally flawed.

May 17, 2013 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Nair has found a real gem in Riz Ahmed, who anchors the film with a charismatically watchable performance. He's in virtually every frame and you hang on his every word.

May 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Ambiguity is at the heart of the novel, but Nair is never quite sure what to do with it.

May 10, 2013 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

As a culture-clash story the film works well enough, but as a character study it's a bit of a scramble.

May 10, 2013 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It most disappoints as a thriller, the flashbacks and voiceovers and romantic entanglements so dominating the proceedings you forget that someone is bound and gagged in real time.

May 9, 2013 Full Review Source: Arizona Republic
Arizona Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

There's much to enjoy in 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist': fine photography, juicy supporting turns from Kiefer Sutherland and Om Puri, and a powerfully sustained sense of a man adrift in a world going mad.

May 8, 2013 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A provocative, ambitious drama about the unconsidered assumptions that power our cultures, for good or ill.

August 26, 2013 Full Review Source: Flick Filosopher
Flick Filosopher

Despite some promising moments, it never quite coheres into a convincing story. It's worth seeing... but it ultimately feels like a missed opportunity - like a pedant groping for a profundity beyond his moral ken.

August 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Reasonably thoughtful, moderately engaging material dealing with some thorny issues. It may be a catalyst for intelligent conversation, which is more than you can say for most movies.

July 12, 2013 Full Review Source:

The film seems to dance around the idea of being really critical of America-of analogizing American "exceptionalism" with Islamic fundamentalism-and instead resolves itself with an ending more befitting of a beauty pageant contestant's speech.

June 14, 2013 Full Review Source: Film Comment Magazine
Film Comment Magazine

The film's international intrigue is unlikely to resonate too closely with today's headlines because of a conventional approach that alternates between a mechanical thriller and a shallow if provocative character study.

June 12, 2013 Full Review Source:

The very fact that Nair -- who is very at home on the subject of culture clashes -- tackled a thriller is noteworthy, as is the fact that she doesn't blow it.

June 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

A notable cast - and noble intentions - can't elevate what is a very ordinary film.

May 29, 2013 Full Review Source: Quickflix

The film from writer William Wheeler and director Mira Nair ("Monsoon Wedding') is smart and complex, as unwilling to cling to one ideology as its protagonist.

May 28, 2013 Full Review Source: Capital Times (Madison, WI)
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

A confronting and compelling look at post-9/11 racism in America.

May 27, 2013 Full Review Source: Concrete Playground
Concrete Playground

Novelistic film wants to spark discussion about race and fear

May 26, 2013 Full Review Source: Movie Habit
Movie Habit

Flashes of a great novel don't overcome missteps

May 26, 2013 Full Review Source: Movie Habit
Movie Habit

Director Mira Nair is eager to explore the long-range effects of post-9/11 paranoia, but can't quite get the film's thriller element to click.

May 24, 2013 Full Review Source: 3AW

This film version morphs its uncertainties into big screen clichés.

May 23, 2013 Full Review Source:

As Nair's film forgoes provocation for pandering, it assumes a tragic air, albeit not for the reasons she intended.

May 22, 2013 Full Review Source: Willamette Week
Willamette Week

It highlights the up-and-down nature of the film - some parts are compelling while other parts are unconvincing.

May 22, 2013 Full Review Source: ABC Radio Brisbane
ABC Radio Brisbane

William Wheeler has forged a richly complex, achingly satisfying screenplay from Mohsin Hamid's hugely popular, Booker Prize shortlisted novel and Mira Nair has turned it into a significant and powerful film with something to say

May 18, 2013 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Riz Ahmed delivers a towering performance as Changez, the son of a Pakistani poet who achieves the American Dream before finding his own truth

May 18, 2013 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

One's interest is diminished as the dramatic focus becomes unclear, petering out in well-meaning rhetorical confusion.

May 18, 2013 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

Ambitious and thought-provoking yet ultimately uneven, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is elevated - and saved - by a stunning central performance from Riz Ahmed.

May 17, 2013 Full Review Source: Flix Capacitor
Flix Capacitor

A lurching, stuttering drama, one whose intentions are far better than its sense of storytelling rhythm.

May 17, 2013 Full Review Source: Times-Picayune

Audience Reviews for The Reluctant Fundamentalist

A charismatic lead character and good production values, but the story just states the obvious and is rather pointless. I also found the love story sub-plot quite implausible and boring.
March 8, 2014

Super Reviewer

A little long, and a little slow at times, but I like how this film showed different perspectives, demonstrated how things are not always as they seem, and how paranoia greatly interferes. This is an interesting movie about the inner conflicts of a man who straddles two worlds. On one hand, he has bought into the American dream of wealth, status, luxury. Yet his Pakistani roots with a modest family income, and meaningful work pull in the opposite direction. Add to that the alienation he feels when he is treated terribly by his adopted American society after 9/11. Well crafted, beautifully acted...especially by Riz Ahmed, and Liev Schreiber.
February 24, 2014

Super Reviewer

Maybe The Reluctant Fundamentalist's lack of success is down to the fact that it faces peoples prejudices head on. Some have suggested that the title alone put people off, so it seems people don't even want to know. This is the sad truth as The Reluctant Fundamentalist puts a lot of things into perspective. It's a classic thriller in the sense that nothing is how it seems but the twist is that this is real, it's happening all the time all over the world. It tackles big subjects such as prejudice, paranoia, patriotism and good old fashioned lies (told best by governments and mainstream media alike). It might go some in helping people with their misconceptions of other cultures, countries and religions but the majority don't seem to care. They're comfortable in their little western lives, who cares if a bomb goes off on the other side of the world, it's their problem and they probably had it coming for some reason or other. It's a sad world. Watch this film and think, can't believe I seem to be the only person I know that has seen it! Content aside, the direction is very good as is the performances although I'm still not convinced that Kate Hudson was right for her role. Riz Ahmed however, is the man and definitely one to watch.
January 16, 2014

Super Reviewer

Man, that's a dull title, and you know what, the film itself isn't exactly the thriller they say it is. Yeah, I can't help but notice that "political" thrillers use the actual term "thriller" loosely, even though I can't see too much political depth to an ostensibly lively tour of Walt Disney Studios. Oh no, wait, that's "The Reluctant Dragon", something that you definitely shouldn't confuse this film with, because where "The Reluctant Dragon" was less than 80 minutes, this thing find itself "drago-I mean, dragg[u]ing[/u] (Sorry, that was a close one) to about 130 minutes. Oh well, it's still nice to see Kate Hudson in something with some blasted integrity, although I can't help but hold a concern that she, as an actress who is practically seeking out commercial garbage to be in, latched onto this film when she realized that it starred a rapper, no realizing that it was only going to be Riz MC. Man, with all due respect, let's settle it down our concern about the Islams in America and pay some attention to the Islams in Brits, because Riz Ahmed behaves as British as possible, yet is so brown that he decided to take up rapping. Oh, forget it, because the Islams have been bother the Brits for a long, long time now, and I'm surprised that we're still talking about how shaken social order was after 9/11, which was terrible and all, but over a decade ago. Well, apparently people aren't talking about that period much anymore, because I'm not hearing anyone talk much about this film, and that's a shame, because with all of my joking about the pacing of this "thriller", it's reasonably engaging, no matter how much the flaws work to shake your investment.

It's hard to bring uniqueness to this frequently thoroughly explored subject matter at this point, and I must admit that there are refreshing touches, but not enough to fight a been-there-done-that feel, partly because this film takes plenty of time for you to develop that feeling. Now, I've been joking and joking about how slow this film might be, but it does not feel nearly as draggy as I was fearing it would, due to a consistent degree of fair entertainment value, and yet, there is still some dragging on paper, as the 130-minute runtime is achieved partly through excess material that still isn't fleshed out enough for the layers to converge as organically as they should. Most all major plot layers here are worthy, but they bloat the narrative something fierce, until focal consistency is lost in a fashion that reflects a sense of overambition, which in turn reflects natural shortcomings. This is a meaty story, sure, with limited punch, yet this still could have been a relatively strong drama if material wasn't further watered down by familiarity, pacing problems and, yes, even subtlety issues. As I said earlier, there's no ignoring ambition, as it is reflected too much, not just within the narrative bloating that I mentioned earlier, but through subtlety issues in dramatic storytelling, as director Mira Nair's overtly passionate attention to important subject matter, while endearing and often genuinely effective, is generally with a limited genuineness that makes other challenges to your investment all the harder to disregard. There are plenty of compelling elements throughout this dramatic pseudo-thriller, and they bring the final product to the brink of rewarding, but there's not enough weight to the strengths to overpower the weight of the shortcomings, of which there are enough to prevent the final product from being as memorable as it could have been, much less as effective as it wants to be. Nevertheless, in spite of the questionability, this effort engages adequately, falling short of rewarding, but persevering as decent, and even aesthetically appealing.

Among the more unevenly played with elements in this somewhat narratively overblown drama is "Donnie Darko" soundtrack composer Michael Andrews' score, which is still very much worth waiting for, as conventional scoring elements go outweighed by a subtle, if not refreshingly stylish intensity that helps in capturing a sense of grit almost as consistently as the film's visual style. Declan Quinn's cinematography is just as, if not more conventional than Andrews' score, with hardly any plays on lighting and coloring dynamicity, but also like Quinn's score, the photographic value of this subtly stylish drama engages, keeping a consistent look that is heavy, with an attractive ruggedness that further compliments the selling of this subject matter. I can't really say that this film is all that stylistically special, but I suppose Rotten Tomatoes' consensus is right in saying that this film is "technically proficient", for if you can get past the shaky camera and other questionable, or at least limited technical touches, there's a stylistic sharpness to sustain engagement value, and therefore give you an opportunity to soak in an appreciation for this story. Again, this story is a little too familiar for its own good, and its interpretation gets to be too heavy-handed for its own good, but this is still a pretty intriguing look at the prejudice on and development of an Islamic man in a country that was devastated by his people, carrying some sharp twists and turns to its cerebral thrills, backed by important thematic depths that are themselves backed by a compelling dramatic bite, sold by heartfelt direction that sustains enough momentum to pacing to keep dullness at bay and grace effective moments with kick. Mira Nair's direction is flawed at times, but with all of my joking about slowness, it never loses entertainment value, even if the deeply compelling moments are few and far between, making sure that engagement never abates, and not without the help of some onscreen inspiration. Acting is, as Rotten Tomatoes' consensus put it, "solid", with most everyone convincing thoroughly, especially Kate Hudson, - whose sense of vulnerability captures the depths of a free-spirited, but flawed woman who is trying to bury past mistakes as chances for a new life with a new lover develops - as well as leading man Riz Ahmed, whose humbling charisma, combined with subtly powerful dramatic layers sell the depths of an intellectual, ambitious and all around honorable man whose life and principles, just as they're beginning to take full form, go challenged by the suffering of and disdain from peers in a time of crisis that hits him about as hard as it hits many of the peers in question. I kind of wish that there was more consistency to material for Ahmed to deliver on, but at the end of the day, I feel that Ahmed's lead performance is a strong one, and while that's not enough to carry dramatic effectiveness to a particularly rewarding point, the onscreen talent is a particularly bright reflection of the inspiration that gets this conceptually important drama to the brink of rewarding, even if it can't quite make that leap out of underwhelmingness.

In conclusion, unevenly draggy structuring to an overblown narrative and some heavy-handedness reflect limitations to conventional subject matter enough to prevent the final product from achieving a very rewarding status, to which it is brought close to on the backs of strong score work and cinematography, reasonably engaging inspiration to the directorial telling of an intriguing story, and strong performances, - particularly from Kate Hudson and relatively outstanding leading man Riz Ahmed - leaving Mira Nair's "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" to stand as a passably compelling, if improvable, intense meditation upon the impact recent Islamic conflicts have had on ostensibly good people of a certain type.

2.75/5 - Decent
December 24, 2013
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron Johnson

Super Reviewer

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