The Reluctant Fundamentalist: Post-911 Affronts and Doomed Romance

<i>The Reluctant Fundamentalist</i>: Post-911 Affronts and Doomed Romance
Kate Hudson and Riz Ahmed
Kiefer Sutherland and Riz Ahmed
Kiefer Sutherland and Riz Ahmed

Location Info


Tower Theater

1508 SW 8th St.
Miami, FL 33135

Category: Movie Theaters

Region: Little Havana


Starring Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, and Liev Schreiber. Directed by Mira Nair. Not rated. 128 minutes. Opens Friday, May 17, at Tower Theater.

In the same way novels can be better and worse than journalism at processing history, so can movies be better and worse than novels: too unreal yet too specific. For the movie of Mohsin Hamid's novel, director Mira Nair mounts a sensitive retrospective procedural of radicalization: Here's how a bright young Pakistani man (Riz Ahmed) goes straight from Princeton into a boutique corporate valuation firm (with Kiefer Sutherland as his sharkish boss), then has a promising meet-cute with an emotionally unavailable American woman (Kate Hudson), then has his priorities rearranged by the fallout of 9/11. He returns to Pakistan as a university lecturer whose ideas may or may not encourage terrorism, drawing attention from a journalist (Liev Schreiber) whose lengthy interview-cum-standoff serves as the film's narrative frame. At times it's dense and sluggish, too much like a novel. But there is some exhilaration to be had from Nair's sincere interest in Hudson's character, who is appealing but hung up by grief over a previous relationship. In the richest moment, she offends her new suitor with a naively exploitative art project -- she calls it an expression of love; he says it's defamation -- and he stuns himself with the cruelty of his response. Thus the central arc is a function not only of sadly expected post-9/11 affronts -- the airport strip search, the tire slashing, the colleagues getting nervous about his beard -- but also of doomed romance, with a vision of America that's all the more alluring for being so tragically stunted.

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