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Film Review: Profiling Transforms ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’

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CHICAGO – Given the recent media coverage of the Boston bombings, the issue of profiling – judging a individual as suspect based on religion or appearances – is an ongoing problem. Director Mira Nair explores profiling in the context of September 11th in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.”

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

Based on a novel by Mohsin Hamid, the film is the journey of the main character, a Pakistani immigrant who shows a genius for business in an Ivy League education in America, and scores on the fast track with one of the top financial firms in New York City. His life changes on September 11th, 2001, and the attitude towards him changes as well. On a human level, the film is a empathetic exploration of what can happen to an individual who is marginalized for no reason except for profiling. On a geopolitical level, it also exposes the paranoia associated with law enforcement (or rule breaking) agencies like the CIA, who are charged with trying to disseminate something, anything in the war against terror. And finally, on a personal character level, how connections and relationships break down in the wake of the fear generated after 9/11.

Changez (Riz Ahmed) is a financial studies professor in Lahore, Pakistan. When a fellow professor (an American) is kidnapped, Changez agrees to meet with Bobby (Liev Schreiber), an American reporter who seeks his connection to the incident. Changez begins the story with his roots in Lahore, when he broke from his family to study finance in the late 1990s at a top Ivy League school in the USA. After graduation, he gets a job with a high level financial firm in New York City and is is mentored by one of the firm’s upper managers, Jim Cross (Kiefer Sutherland).

Changez rises quickly through the ranks, in recognition of his talent in reducing costs in the firm’s holdings. He also meets a local artist, Erica (Kate Hudson), and despite her tragic past they fall in love. This all comes crashing down, like the World Trade Center itself, on September 11th, 2001. In the aftermath, Changez is stripped searched in an airport, arrested on the street and grows a beard in solidarity with his countrymen. He eventually leaves the financial firm, goes back to Pakistan, and falls under the suspicion of the CIA. Whether this final bit of profiling will reveal his true nature has not been determined.

“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” continues its limited release in Chicago on May 3rd. See local listings for theaters and show times. Featuring Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson. Kiefer Sutherland, Liev Schreiber and Om Puri. Screenplay adapted by William Wheeler. Directed by Mira Nair. Rated “R”

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”

Kate Hudson, Riz Ahmed
Happy Days: Erica (Kate Hudson) and Changez (Riz Ahmed) Relate in ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’
Photo credit: IFC Films

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”

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