The Reluctant Fundamentalist
THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST (M) (130min)
Directed by Mira Nair. With Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber, Kiefer Sutherland
The Reluctant Fundamentalist takes itself, and its continuously relevant subject matter, seriously.
A lot of us in New Zealand wonder how Americans continue to be so amazed that they can be attacked on their own soil.
But this movie casts no blame; the two main characters are forced somewhat painfully to walk in the shoes of others.
And it's not that Pakistani Changez chooses to pick a side - as he says, he has a side picked for him.
Clever and ambitious Changez (Riz Ahmed) has the sort of laser-mind that hones in on the significant detail.
After an education at Princeton he's picked up as an economic analyst. His ability to dispassionately downsize businesses sees him racing up the corporate ladder.
He meets his boss's niece (a strangely unappealing Kate Hudson) and the relationship starts to grow.
But she's an artist (thus, like writers, born with a splinter of ice in her heart) and that gives her the capacity to emotionally disconnect as well, using her relationship with Changez as the subject for an exhibition.
The action is set on either side of September 11: welcomed as a bright young man one minute, then mistrusted - and abusively treated - as a potential terrorist the next.
And the movie cleverly pulls the audience into the prevailing paranoia. See a crowd in Lahore market, see a bag - expect a bomb.
Everyone on a cellphone is a potential terrorist. (And everyone with a cellphone is a photographer.)
And what difference is there between a joke and a threat?
Changez answers his American friends' question about where he'll be in 25 years' time with ''The dictator of an Islamic republic with nuclear capabilities''.
He barbecues pork sausages for them, but throws away his own. For all its potential, this movie stays frustratingly just beneath what it could have achieved.
It never completely engages. Yet it leaves the audience thinking how doomed we are unless we accept our irreconcilable differences.
The Dominion Post