Riz Ahmed

reluctantfundamentalist05

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.

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There’s a lot of dancing going on in this trailer for Michael Winterbottom‘s Trishna. Typical Bollywood style numbers with their elaborate flair. Intimate undulations between two people falling in love. The kind of dance moves that happen between sheets. They’re all there, and they all look stunning. Winterbottom seeks to confound here a bit, combining several elements from past films and making something that looks nothing like anything he’s done before. There’s a dash of 24 Hour Party People, the sensuality of 9 Songs, and maybe even a taste of A Mighty Heart‘s dramatics, but over all, this story of star cross’d lovers looks like a new animal. It stars Freida Pinto and Riz Ahmed as the daughter of a rickshaw owner and the son of a land developer that only have eyes for each other. How much do you want to bet that their love is forbidden? Sink down into the poetry of it all for yourself:

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Every so often, it becomes artistically necessary for someone to come along and combine a serious political issue with The Three Stooges. In lesser hands, it can be an offensive disaster, but fortunately it was director Christopher Morris that answered the call from fate this time. With Four Lions he attempts to bring a sense of levity to terrorism – specifically the brand of terrorism that the news cycle has brought to the forefront of our psyche within the past decade: Islamic extremism. Jihadism. The Mujahideen. This might be the most dangerous territory to go mining for comedy, but Morris does it the right way – by finding the comedy first, cleaning off the political mess, and delivering it dead pan to the audience. Omar (Riz Ahmed) and his moronic mate Waj (Kayvan Novak) head to Pakistan to train with Al Qaeda so that they can take their small band of terrorists in Britain to the next level and achieve the grand goal of blowing themselves up constructively.

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Four Lions

It’s incredibly difficult to take a look at terrorism (especially Islamic terrorism) and laugh at it. Four Lions does just that, and does it with flying colors.

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