I normally dread film adaptations of novels I have loved. But this week I am delighted to be wrong. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a first rate, plot driven thriller about one man’s radical journey from New York to Lahore and back.
Once in a while you buy a book that you literally can’t put down. This happened in 2007 when I read The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamed. It was a taut, provocative and compelling read. Now this novel has been transformed into an equally compelling movie. Congratulations to director Mira Nair, screenwriter Mohsin Hamed, actor Riz Ahmed and the Doha Film Institute for creating this middle eastern masterpiece.
The story centres on Changez, a super bright Pakistani graduate of an Ivy League American college. He is recruited by Underwood Samson, a Wall Street firm which assesses companies’ balance sheets in order to reduce costs (and staff) and prepare them for takeover. Changez loves living the American Dream in NYC and this is enhanced by his love affair with Erica, a photographer with rich connections, played by Kate Hudson. But there are dark undercurrents to their relationship and cultural differences which become starkly highlighted by the attack on the twin towers on September 11.
Everything changes in a heartbeat and Changez, in his name and person, becomes a metaphor for the divide between East and West.
As with the novel, there are so many things to like about this film. The story within a story structure which sees Changez in a café in Lahore, relating his tale to an American journalist, Bobby (played by Live Schreiber) keeps us guessing right until the end. The truly international cast, including Pakistani, English, American, Canadian and Indian actors, reinforces the global nature of this modern fable. The fact it was shot on location in Lahore, India, Istanbul and New York brings an authenticity to the tale, rather than it becoming just another American adaption with meaning and context irrevocably lost. Those who also enjoyed this year’s Oscar winner for best picture, Ben Affleck’s Argo, will find this an equally satisfying cinematic triumph.
Don’t miss it!