Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist would like to be a novel. In fact, it once was a novel. The film is based on Mohsin Hamid’s 2007 best-seller, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and is already being taught in freshman English classes. It’s understandable that Nair and screenwriter William Wheeler would want to preserve the spirit of the original text as best they can. Unfortunately, the result of their work isn’t a film. At best it’s a two-hour mid-season episode of a network terrorism drama, and at worst it’s a cacophony of brutally simplified metaphors spat onto the silver screen. Wheeler’s script has big, big ideas. At its center is Changez, played by rising star Riz Ahmed, whose skilled performance is really the only exciting thing about the film. He’s a college professor in Lahore, suspected by the CIA of having ties to a local terrorist organization. A Western academic, a colleague, has just been kidnapped and the city is about to erupt in a panicked violence. Yet Changez is calmly sitting in a tea house across from Bobby, an American journalist (Liev Schreiber). To call the tension palpable would be an understatement – riding on this single conversation is the weight of the entire world.