The narrative is framed within a conversation in a Lahore café between an American journalist and a Pakistani lecturer (or are they C.I.A. and terrorist leader?). The exchange produces the story through flashbacks of the Pakistani man, Changez Khan and his journey from a high status but dwindling old-money wealth of a Lahori family, to Princeton, Wall Street to his return home. Set with 9/11 as the story’s temporal centre-point, the film explores the unfounded backlash against and persecution of those of a certain skin colour in the post-9/11 West, and how this treatment shattered lives, relationships and beliefs on both sides.Riz Ahmed (Four Lions, Trishna) as Changez is an enthralling lead, carrying the film in which he is in almost every frame with ease. Liev Schreiber (Defiance, Salt) too as the washed up, disillusioned journo is commanding as the equally broken opposite number. Kate Hudson (Almost Famous, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days) as love interest Erica, the average fear-induced American, was a little irritating and probably given too much screen time in an effort to bring in more viewers for the love story, but the part was played creditably.
Unfortunately a stellar cast can’t always save the day. Narrator perspective filtered double flashback sequences are rather crudely executed. Equally, interesting and topical subject matter cannot forgive a rather slackly stretched tension, which ought to have us gripping the edge of our seats à la Argo. Having not read the source material, I can’t help feeling that fans will be a slightly disappointed. A little over-long (at 130 minutes) and craving a bit more ambiguity in its finale, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is still a fascinating watch for many reasons, as well as being almost shockingly relevant in the light of the Muslim-targeted revenge attacks triggered by the Woolwich murder. A flawed and thought-provoking work; Riz Ahmed alone is enough to make the trip.