The Reluctant Fundamentalist


The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Critics Consensus

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.



Total Count: 99


Audience Score

User Ratings: 5,580
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The Reluctant Fundamentalist Photos

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 crack open between Changez and Erica. Changez's dream soon begins to slip into nightmare: profiled, wrongfully arrested, strip-searched and interrogated, he is transformed from a well-educated, upwardly mobile businessman to a scapegoat and perceived enemy. With time, he begins to hear the call of his own homeland. Taking us through the culturally rich and beguiling worlds of New York, Lahore and Istanbul, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a story about conflicting ideologies where perception and suspicion have the power to determine life or death. (c) IFC Films

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Riz Ahmed
as Changez
Liev Schreiber
as Bobby Lincoln
Martin Donovan
as Ludlow Cooper
Nelsan Ellis
as Wainwright
Victor Slezak
as Maxell Underwood
Haluk Bilginer
as Nazmi Kemal
Imaad Shah
as Sameer
Chandrachur Singh
as Bandy Uncle
Adil Hussain
as Mustafa Fazil
Ali Sethi
as Ahmed
Gary Richardson
as Anse Rainier
Golam Sarwar Harun
as Ranting South Asian Man
Claire Lamont
as June Davis
Ismail Bashey
as Pak-Punjab Deli Customer
Mahmood Mamdani
as Pak-Punjab Deli Customer
Taylor St. Claire
as Cable Company Manager
Roy McCrery
as Agent Ford
Clayton Landey
as Agent Jackson
Mark Oliver
as Immigration Officer
James Sutton
as Airport Security
Jamie Moore
as Cable Company Worker
Vince Canlas
as Kenzaburo
Yinka Adeboyeku
as NYPD Officer
as Nigerian Merchant
Kuldeep Lulla
as Lahori Boy in Mercedes
Daksh Vashisht
as Bobby's Shooter
Charu Shankar
as Lovely Girl at Wedding
Javed Basu Kesselman
as Pakistani Bond
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News & Interviews for The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Critic Reviews for The Reluctant Fundamentalist

All Critics (99) | Top Critics (32)

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

    May 17, 2013 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • 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 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Something is lost in translation, perhaps because Nair is at her best with more personal, less expansive epics such as Salaam Bombay and Monsoon Wedding.

    May 10, 2013 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • Ambiguity is at the heart of the novel, but Nair is never quite sure what to do with it.

    May 10, 2013 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

    Ty Burr

    Boston Globe
    Top 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 | Rating: C | Full Review…

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic
  • An intriguing film about the blowback involved when melting-pot America goes to war.

    May 9, 2013 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Reluctant Fundamentalist

  • Jun 29, 2015
    In "The Reluctant Fundamentalist," Anse Rainier(Gary Richardson), an American university professor, has been kidnapped in Lahore, Pakistan. Bobby Lincoln(Liev Schreiber), a journalist, has a lead in Changez(Riz Ahmed), a professor with supposed ties to local militants. Changez agrees to talk to Bobby but insists at starting at the beginning, like his being recruited out of Princeton University at Underwood Samson, a top investment firm, by Jim Cross(Kiefer Sutherland, perhaps doing penance for playing America's favorite crypto-fascist) in 2000. "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" take great aims to show the world is not that simple, while being very critical of both rampant capitalism and fundamentalism and keenly exploring notions of identity in the post 9/11 world. So much so, that the movie lacks any sense of urgency which is a definite problem concerning its framing device. Look, I could listen to Riz Ahmed and Liev Schreiber shoot the breeze all day, but we really don't need to hear Changez talk so much about him having hot, sweaty sex with his artist girlfriend Erica(Kate Hudson)..........ok, maybe just a little.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 08, 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.
    Ross C Super Reviewer
  • Dec 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
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Nov 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.
    Cynthia S Super Reviewer

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