The Reluctant Fundamentalist Blu-ray Review
American journalist Bobby Lincoln stands on the rooftop of a building in Lahore, Pakistan. He inhales deep, then makes a phone call that begins: “Listen. Uh…something’s happened.” Cut to a video of a kidnapped professor, pleading with both the captors and anyone viewing the tape. And then we see many of the details of the case, with the camera stopping on a photograph of a man named Changez Khan. And that is what has happened and why Bobby (Liev Schreiber, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE) is in a distant country working with the CIA, who believes Changez is tied to the kidnapping.
Bobby and Changez sit down at an outdoor café so the person of interest can tell his story. Changez’s (Riz Ahmed, 2010’s FOUR LIONS) views of America started as positive ones—he attended Princeton, landed a high-paying job on Wall Street (under the guidance of a millionaire played by Keifer Sutherland), fell for an attractive photographer (Kate Hudson, in a rare dramatic appearance). And then 9/11 happened, and Changez faced inevitable profiling by the TSA and scrutiny by American eyes. From there, he quit his job and moved back to Pakistan, where he took a position as a teacher, lecturing on and encouraging anti-American revolutions.
THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST is based on Mohsin Hamid’s 2007 novel of the same name and adapted by William Wheeler, who previously adapted 2006’s THE HOAX for Lasse Hallström. It is directed by Mira Nair, who is best known for 1988’s SALAAM BOMBAY! and 2001’s MONSOON WEDDING.
The movie is told mostly in flashback (the other part is set in present day, with protests being formed while Bobby conducts his interview) so we can learn more about Changez and where his disdain and mistrust for America comes from and what he did after he moved back to his home country. But as we spend more time with Changez, it gets that much more difficult to sympathize with him. About midway through the movie, Changez and Bobby have an exchange where the latter reveals his initial thoughts on the war had been wrong. Changez ends it by saying, “You got to pick a side after 9/11. I didn’t. My side was chosen for me.” And so the audience is stuck with a man who would rather throw his hands in the air and shoot blame. Just because a random pickup truck driver calls him “Osama” and he gets the business end of a white rubber glove up his rear at the airport, he’s going to turn completely?
THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST is less about the kidnapping than life for a foreigner in a post-9/11 world. It is, of course, a worthy subject to explore, but it’s done in such a heavy-handed manner that the main character comes off as a sort of stereotype and the movie as a whole feels forced. All negatives aside, credit should be given to Riz Ahmed who, despite how his character is written, gives a strong performance that should land him more prominent roles.
THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Although night scenes sometimes obscure the characters and surroundings, this Blu-ray offers a fine amount of detail and clarity.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; English 2.0 PCM Lossless. Subtitles in English and Spanish. Two options are available and both offer excellent sound, particularly when the soundtrack and sound effects kick in.
Making Of (31:32): This featurette uses to behind-the-scenes footage and interviews (with director Mira Nair, Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, and more) to highlight the filming, themes, story, cast, and more of THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST.