The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012) Blu-ray review: a movie directed by Mira Nair and starring Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, Liev Schreiber, Nelsan Ellis, Martin Donovan, Riz Ahmed, Adil Hussain, Om Puri, Shabana Azmi, Ashlyn Henson, Christopher Nicholas Smith, Victor Slezak, Haluk Bilginer, Ryan Nesset, and Clayton Landey.
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Changez, a Pakistani professor (Ahmed) is interviewed under a ruse by an undercover CIA agent (Schreiber) posing as a journalist. The agent’s mission is to gain intel on the radical Islamist movement and specifically to determine the whereabouts of the professor’s kidnapped colleague (Richardson), a secret CIA recruiter. The professor agrees to the interview under the conditions the journalist listen to his story with an open mind. The movie is told in series of flashbacks to the professor’s younger days as an ambitious Ivy League graduate rising through the ranks in the financial industry and in love with a white American woman (Hudson).
Post 9/11 everything changes for him overnight. He is suddenly the target of suspicion solely based upon his heritage. He is subjected to wary glances, security pat downs, harassment, and a general cultural isolation driving him further and further towards a rediscovery of what it means to be a Pakistani and a Muslim in America.
Run Time: 130 min
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Language: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English LPCM 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
The video is a decent transfer, but I noted some instances of banding, blocking, and other compression artifacts. They were only present in certain scenes, so thus might represent additional processing and compression in those scenes only. Overall, fine detail was acceptable and color gradients were realistic. Some low light scenes could have benefitted from more depth in the blacks, but flesh tones were true throughout.
The Blu-ray disc has two separate audio choices: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround and Linear PCM 2.0. Both are virtually indistinguishable for the average home theater. The DTS-HD surround sound track is completely lossless, but it does not fully utilize the full complement of speakers. Audio is clear and dynamic with booming lows, crisp highs, and distinct dialogue. The scenes of public unrest are particularly noteworthy, however this is not a film that tests the range of your sound system.
Blu-ray Bonus Content
Making Of (HD, 31:32) covers the production and includes extensive behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with director, cast and crew.
Trailer (HD, 2:27)
This movie is inspired by a 2007 book by Mosin Hamid, but it contains a few differences in plotting and development. That these alterations were made with Hamid’s blessing and assistance does not mean the film does not lose some nuance and momentum from the changes. Several additional characters were created to flesh out the present-day story in Pakistan: the journalist and the CIA recruiter.
The film can be slow in parts, but it benefits from the enhancement of the present-day story, as it lends itself to much more action and context for the viewer. It is notable most of the story is told through the eyes of a non-American, or rather, an immigrant who at first assimilated and embraced American culture, then rejected it in favor of a different set of ideals. This sets it apart from most post 9/11 films.
Riz Ahmed is brilliant as Changez. His transformation from cutthroat financial whiz kid to eastern fundamentalist is engrossing, and Kiefer Sutherland absolutely chews his way through scenes as his Gordo Gekkoesque Wall Street boss. At first glance, The Reluctant Fundamentalist might seem to be an anti-American film, but it is a testament to Nair’s skill as a filmmaker that the film’s subtlety of choice emerges. Viewers are left to decide the answers to several important questions: Is the Changez’s fanaticism initially precipitated and proscribed by his adopted country? How does it benefit the film that he is a reluctant fundamentalist? Is he truly an idealist, or were the seeds of his sentiments sown before he ever set foot on American soil? Is his change a result of the duality of his cultures or a deeper conflict within his own personality?