Indie Weekend Roundup: The Reluctant Fundamentalist review

It’s the last weekend of MSPfest and it’s been great watching a bunch of indie films. Saw The Hunt last night and this is my initial reaction:

Now, two of the last three films I’m reviewing this week happen to be are directed by women. It’s interesting that they’re two VERY different genres, this one is a dramatic thriller and the other one I’m finishing up on, In A World, is a comedy, but both are highly recommended.

Anyway, on to the review:

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

A young Pakistani man is chasing corporate success on Wall Street. He finds himself embroiled in a conflict between his American Dream, a hostage crisis, and the enduring call of his family’s homeland.

I happen to see the trailer just a week before I saw the MSPfest schedule so I signed up to see it right away. This is the kind of film that will likely raise some eyebrows and some people might have strong feelings about it, whether good or bad. I guess that’s to be expected given the subject matter involves terrorism, though this film is not so much about an extremist attack, but the reaction when such a heinous event occurs. This film also works as a character study of an intriguing character named Changez, who like many immigrants, often is (or feels) torn between two worlds.

The film opens with the kidnapping of an American college professor off the street in Pakistan, and somehow Changez, a fellow university teacher, appears to be right in the middle of the Pakistani/American conflict. That’s what Bobby, an American journalist, alludes to when he interviews Changez at a cafe. “I only ask that you please listen to the whole story, not just bits and pieces…” Changez said to Bobby, to which the journalist agrees and as the tape recorder rolls, we’re taken to Changez’s life ten years prior. We saw that he came from a rather privileged background in Lahore and that he was as a prodigious student at Princeton. With the potent combination of extraordinary intellect and tenacity, it’s no surprise he soon attain the American dream when he’s hired at a high-powered consulting firm Underwood Samson. He seemed to have it all, even his love life seems to be going well when he met a free-spirited American girl Erica. But then, 9/11 happened, and from the moment Changez witnessed the footage of the plane hitting the twin tower, things aren’t going to be the same for him.


Now, there have been countless films on that subject, but I feel that The Reluctant Fundamentalist manages to tackle the side not often explored but certainly worth telling. As an immigrant, I empathize with Changez even if I don’t necessarily agree with his decisions. In fact, the whole time I was watching the scenes of him literally being harassed by counter-terrorism officers and TSA agents simply because of his nationality, I kept thinking of a Pakistani college friend of mine who actually share a very similar background as Changez. I’d imagine watching this film would perhaps hit too close to home for him.

I appreciate that the film doesn’t really take sides, in fact, it challenges me to put myself in someone else’s shoes, and to see a complex human emotion at play where things aren’t always so black and white. In the midst of such a tense story though, I also find the film to be surprisingly witty and humorous. Changez making a droll reference to CSI Miami to Bobby and the one that got the most laugh, his nonchalant quip about wanting to be a dictator of a middle eastern country with nuclear capabilities when his workmates ask him about what he wanted to be in the next ten years. Even in its humor though, the filmmaker is well-aware of people’s natural prejudices when faced with a character like Changez.

I was very impressed with London-born Riz Ahmed as Changez. The Oxford-educated actor is also a rapper under the name Riz MC. Apparently I had seen him before in a small role in Centurion, but this is the role that really showcase his talent as an actor. He’s effortlessly believable as an intellectual, a charismatic leader, and a romantic lead, which is a testament to his versatility. Ahmed’s melancholy yet expressive big, black eyes say so much, and I can’t help being drawn to his character up until the very end.


Brunette Kate Hudson is quite good here as Erica, herself a tortured soul because of a past incident that killed her former boyfriend. The two have a convincing chemistry, though from the start it’s clear the relationship is built on feeble ground. Kiefer Sutherland and Liev Schreiber offer decent supporting performances. It’s interesting to see Mr. Jack Bauer NOT playing some CIA officer in a story that could’ve easily been an extended episode of 24.

Overall, I’m impressed with BAFTA-winning Indian director Mira Nair‘s film adaptation from Mohsin Hamid’s novel. How one receives this particular film is likely going to vary from person to person, but I do think it’s well worth a watch as a cultural drama about a subject that’s sadly always going to be timely.

Thoughts on this film yet? Is this something you’re intrigued to see?

32 thoughts on “Indie Weekend Roundup: The Reluctant Fundamentalist review

  1. Ruth – you should check out Riz Ahmed in Trishna. And to Keith7198 – I just saw The Hunt at the Sarasota Film Festival recently. Very worth while film. Both The Hunt and Trishna reviews are on my site.

    ‘ll have to wait to see The Reluctant Fundamentalist as it isn’t playing in Sarasota just yet. Thanks for the fine review.

    1. Hi Mike! I’m now curious to see more of Riz Ahmed’s work, so great suggestion. I’ll be checking out your review of The Hunt Mike, curious to hear what you think!

  2. Sounds like a really interesting film. I’m not familiar with Riz Ahmed but now I’m curious to check out his work. Also great to hear that Kate Hudson does a good job in this film — it must be her first decent performance since what, Almost Famous? πŸ˜€

    1. Ahmed is VERY impressive indeed, I want to check out more of his work too now. Ahah, well I don’t usually watch Kate’s movies but she looks so different here, she’s not as bubbly as usual and her dark hair makes her slightly unrecognizable.

    1. I’m curious to hear what you think Steph. I feel that this is one of those films that people would have strong opinions one way or the other, but on the acting front, it was impressive!

  3. Ted S.

    I saw the trailer of this movie a while back, wasn’t sure if it will get a wide release. I highly doubt it now that the summer season will start this weekend and it won’t make a dime with all the big films out there. It does look interesting so I’ll give it a rent. I wonder if it will be available for On-Demand soon, then I can just stream it.

    1. Oh no I don’t think it can compete w/ the Summer blockbusters, but there’s always room for independent films in its market. I hope you give it a watch Ted, I don’t feel that it’s overly-manipulative like one would expect given the subject matter.

    1. Ah interesting, I actually didn’t know she was in it until she appeared on screen. She’s quite good actually, a VERY different role from Almost Famous πŸ™‚

  4. Of Mira Nair’s films, I’ve only seen Amelia, which I’m assuming isn’t her best film. This does look interesting though, and it’s always nice to see Kate Hudson and Kiefer Sutherland in a good film. I’ll probably check this out on DVD.

    1. Sorry I somehow missed your comment here Josh. I haven’t seen Amelia but I did hear it’s not a strong film. This one is excellent though, and both Kate and Kiefer are both good here, playing against type somewhat.

  5. So far, Liev’s main roles had been either horror, sci-fi or romantic comedy, so this film was such a breath of fresh air for me! It truly showed just how talented he is!

  6. Nice review! I just saw the trailer for this one not too long ago and I remember checking it off my mental must watch movie list. πŸ™‚ I will definitely check this one out.

    1. Hi there Griff, welcome to FC! Oh no, don’t write this one out yet. I could see people doing that as it deals w/ 9/11 once again, but it’s really not about that.

  7. Pingback: FlixChatter Review: Nightcrawler (2014) |

  8. Pingback: Movies coming to Netflix in June – here are the ones I recommend & look forward to |

  9. Pingback: Award season chat: Musings on 2017 Golden Globes Nominations

  10. Pingback: Indie Review: Lake Bell’s debut film ‘In A World’ – FlixChatter Film Blog

Join the conversation by leaving a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s