The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a film that just doesn’t come together – despite its impressive cast. It’s a noble failure, but a failure nonetheless.
Mira Nair’s film is based on Mohsin Hamid’s international bestseller and the director has lined-up an intriguing cast including Kiefer Sutherland, Kate Hudson and Liev Schreiber. They all do a serviceable job in supporting roles, but the lead is taken by Riz Ahmed, who just doesn’t have the charisma to make the material work. His character arc just never feels real.
It’s noble to make a post-9/11 drama from the perspective of a young Pakistani, watching how the attack on the World Trade Centre impacted the lives of real people. In the case of The Reluctant Fundamentalist , we follow Ahemd’s Changez Khan, a financial analyst who moves from Pakistan to America. However his life is radically altered following the attacks. His life in America is changed when he is treated with suspicion and this alters his perception of who he is and the world around him.
I haven’t read Mohsin Hamid’s novel but I feel that there must be more depth to it than what Nair brings to the screen. It feels jam-packed with character and plot, taking its 2 hour-plus running time to breaking point. Sometimes books just aren’t meant to be films. The supporting cast feels like window dressing, a way of making the film palatable to audiences and moneymen alike. Furthermore, they just don’t feel like they’re giving it their all. It’s as if they all signed-on to the film so they could have a noble 9/11 film on their CVs.
Visually, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is rather flat. It doesn’t have a sheen to make it feel classy. The film looks and feels like a prestige project that has been made on a budget. On paper it may seem like The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a major awards contender, but the finished product is nothing to boast about. A dud.