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Mira Nair’s ‘Reluctant Fundamentalist’ divides critics in Venice

Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist opened the Venice Film Festival this week and divided critics with some applauding Nair’s ‘bold vision’ whilst others expressed shock.  

The film, adapted from the 2007 novel by Mohsin Hamid, tells the story of a young Pakistani man, played by Riz Ahmed, who becomes a successful Wall Street banker before being radicalized after the September 11th attacks on New York.  

The film also stars Kate Hudson and Liev Schreiber.  

The movie offers an alternate view of the attacks with Nair attempting to understand what shapes radical ideas and motivates terrorists.

The Times’ Kate Muir says Ahmed is “wonderfully convincing” in the lead role, morphing from Wall Street matinee idol to Mujahideen confidant.  

If the festival needed “an electric charge to shock it into motion”, it came at the premiere of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, says Xan Brooks in The Guardian.
Half way through the film, Ahmed’s Wall Street hotshot watches the planes hit the World Trade Centre. He flashes an exultant smile, admitting that, instead of sorrow or anger, “all I felt was awe”.  

Time magazine praised the film as “tense, thoughtful and truly international” and said the story “raises questions meant to test America’s conscience”.

Yet while the material might be contentious, particularly to US audiences, director Nair, said she wanted the film to bring “some sense of bridge-making, some sense of healing, basically a sense of communication that goes beyond the stereotype”.

But critics were not universally positive.

Some commented that the film lacked the subtlety of Hamid’s novel, while Variety says the movie “saddles itself with a laborious narrative structure and half-baked thriller elements”.

Geoffrey McNab notes in The Independent that this isn’t the sort of film a Hollywood studio would back, or one that is likely to endear itself to US viewers, given that it portrays Americans in the wake of 9/11 as “violent, racist, intolerant of outsiders and quick to assign blame”. But he admits it’s a well-crafted thriller that “looks at familiar subject matter from a new angle”.

– UKAsian Staff

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