The Reluctant Fundamentalist Reviews

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Super Reviewer
March 8, 2014
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.
Super Reviewer
½ November 14, 2013
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.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ December 24, 2013
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
Super Reviewer
October 31, 2013
Wow! I almost missed this gem. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is an ambitious film based on a story with a very strong message, brought to life by the very talented Riz Ahmed who, as the lead actor, anchors the film, making it very watchable and the character totally believable and real. Beautiful cinematography to boot, though the film does suffer from trying too hard such that at parts it becomes draggy and loses coherence and hold on the viewer. Although the film is supposedly a political thriller set in Pakistan and US post-9 11, it delivers powerfully as a drama that challenges one's preconceived notions about people and stirs empathy for justice and truth in how we treat people different from us. Definitely a thinking man's film, and is certainly worth watching. Don't miss this - now showing on the international film screens.
November 28, 2013
I am glad I heard of this movie. Good story about how racial profiling can create suspicion. Great acting and Riz has a new fan.
½ September 28, 2013
I liked this movie because we have never viewed 9-11 and how it impacted on innocent Muslims that were living in New York.
September 7, 2013
A decent suspenseful drama about the dilemma faced by a Pakistani man (Riz Ahmed) in deciding his allegiances after seeing how he and his fellow citizens were treated within the last decade or so. The theme is relevant today, but unfortunately the film itself tries to explain the psyche of the Muslim world merely through a two-hour duration of microcosmic conversation between an American (Liev Schreiber) and the Pakistani compounded with his occasional flashbacks. The result is a quite odd alternating mixtures of fast-paced scenes and laidback ones. A worthy watch, especially for fans of Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty"...but if you are looking for something resembling even a modest thriller, this ain't it.
½ August 30, 2013
This was not my favorite type of movie, but I watched it because of the amazing cast. I had a hard time caring about the characters and paying attention to things because they happened so randomly. There was not a cohesive storyline and the ending left me wondering what I had just missed. I think it is safe to pass on this movie if you are on the fence about watching it, but if political thrillers are what you like, you will definitely enjoy this one.
½ August 22, 2013
As one of the most-poorly named films of 2013 (it is a mouthful), The Reluctant Fundamentalist is probably also one of the most difficult to recommend to wide audiences for a couple of reasons. It is also very difficult to write about. Although the title comes from the 2007 best-selling, international novel (of the same name) by author Mohsin Hamid, the short three-word title is quite heavy-handed and alone may cause people not to watch it if one is in the mood for something jocular that one can watch while eating Milk Duds. The film's staid and intelligent subject matter about America's prolonged involvement in a political and religious quagmire might end up being too realistic for some moviegoers who like having some escapist elements to the films they chose to watch. Indian director Mira Nair (The Namesake, Monsoon Wedding) has taken on the story of a Pakistani man, Changez (Riz Ahmed - Four Lions), who moved to New York City and grew to love everything about his new home and neighbors while becoming a highly successful Wall Street trader pursuing the American dream. On one beautiful September morning in 2001, Changez went to work like everyone else in the city of New York and was soon horrified, frightened, shocked, sickened and distraught over what the morning brought. The world did change that day and it also changed how Changez began to be looked at differently by people in the streets, at work, his girlfriend (Kate Hudson - Almost Famous) etc. ... To get away from the scrutinizing he has grown uncomfortable with, he returns home to his parents' home in Lahore and falls in with some fundamentalists who begin to "teach" him the way they look at the world. Changez is reluctant and he does not know what to make of the changing world and he questions his place in it and where he is wanted. Liev Schreiber (Salt) is a journalist following Changez to see how far he has come. The film becomes too ambiguous with Changez and it all becomes uncertain; but this is a major stumble the film has taken as our investment of time should be rewarded with more than just question marks.
May 30, 2013
An intimate, interesting portrayal of a man who loves America.

Mira Nair has made some compelling cinema in her life--and hopefully there is much more to come. I have to give her props here for crafting a compelling film that is focused on a subject that I have (had?) no interest in.

The format of interweaving "current" events with flashbacks rarely works, but Nair does a nice tiptoe balancing act to shuttle between the two distinct sections of the film in a way that isn't obnoxious or obtrusive.

The characters are compelling, especially with the stand-out performance from Riz Ahmed.
April 26, 2013
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.
½ January 3, 2015
I found this to be a average movie. It is long and too slow at some point. The movie gives a perspective of Americans post 9/11 and how one deals with his inner self. Not so convincing.
December 21, 2014
Thoroughly enjoyable. Thought-provoking at many levels. The next book on the reading list.
June 30, 2014
Like any good film, this story makes you think. Director Mira Nair has been brave in tackling a prickly issue, and has had the realistic sense to appreciate that solutions are nearly impossible to come by.

This is the story of a Pakistani man who comes to America for an ivy league education just prior to the 9/11 disaster. After graduating Princeton, the student, Changez, lands a dream job on Wall Street. Changez is not embarrassed by his roots, but he is happy to call America his home. Changez's feelings begin to change when he experiences extreme racism and racial targeting after the 9/11 attacks, When he finds himself feeling exploited by his own girlfriend, he realizes that he harbors a longing for home.

We join Changez, an influential professor at a Pakistani university, as he is being questioned by an American journalist. The journalist wants to know if Changez is using his influence to support terrorism. As Changez tells his story, the audience tries to decide if Changez has been soured so much by American inhospitality that he has been driven to extremism.

These are, indeed, tough issues. I can imagine some people would have been made uncomfortable during this film. While there is some conclusion offered, the movie doesn't attempt to tidy the whole messy business, and I respect that.

Riz Ahmed was absolutely brilliant as Changez. Truly captivating and excessively talented. He chose his script wisely.
June 5, 2013
Great performance by Riz ahmed. Good storyline. Good direction. good movie
½ May 28, 2014
Every westerner especially Americans should see this film. Subtle handling of the issues.
½ May 10, 2014
It is Riz Ahmed who keeps things watchable, even when the film loses its footing.
May 2, 2014
This was way better than I thought it would be... music was inspiring and acting was great...
February 14, 2014
engaging story with a strong message, worth giving it a watch.
½ February 12, 2014
Goes on a bit too long and the romantic subplot feels unnecessary, but The Reluctant Fundamentalist is mostly mysterious and intriguing.
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