'Reluctant Fundamentalist' Couldn't Be More Timely

Director Mira Nair's film, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is based on a novel first published six years ago. But in the shocking aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, the movie arrives amid intense debate on the alienation of immigrants in the U.S.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The new movie from director Mira Nair is based on a novel published six years ago. But film critic Kenneth Turan says the themes found in "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" could not be more up-to-the-minute.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: In the shocking aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, President Obama asked why did young men who grew up and studied here as part of our communities and our country resort to such violence? "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" presents different ways to frame this very question.

The film starts with the kidnapping of an American professor in Lahore, which leads to a conversation between two men. Bobby Lincoln, played by Liev Schreiber, is an American journalist who's lived in Lahore long enough to be fluent in Urdu. Changez Khan is a university professor who has a reputation for being Pakistan's new militant academic.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST")

RIZ AHMED: (as Changez Khan) You have waited a very long time for this interview and for that I must apologize. So tell me, Bobby. What exactly is the article about?

LIEV SCHREIBER: (as Bobby Lincoln) The kidnapping of an American citizen.

AHMED: You think I had something to do with this kidnapping?

SCHREIBER: I'm not the one you have to convince.

AHMED: I only ask that you please listen to the whole story.

TURAN: Changez, impeccably played by British actor Riz Ahmed, tells Lincoln that appearances can be deceptive. I am a lover of America, he says, with complete sincerity, adding that for many years he was a soldier in your economic army. The film then jumps back in time and shows Changez getting hired by a Wall Street headhunter, played by Kiefer Sutherland, right out of Princeton.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST")

AHMED: (as Changez) In America I get an equal chance to win, and whether or not you hire me, Jim, I am going to win.

KIEFER SUTHERLAND: (as Jim) Good answer.

TURAN: The attacks of September 11th alter everything for Changez. He has to decide what he thinks about the economic fundamentalism that guides America as well as the religious fundamentalism that guides some adherents of Islam. This provocative film deals with the geopolitical ramifications of the world America has made, unwittingly or not; a world where people who should be our friends may have become our enemies.

MONTAGNE: The film is "The Reluctant Fundamentalist." Kenneth Turan reviews movies for Morning Edition and the Los Angeles Times.

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