The Reluctant Fundamentalist: A Political Thriller, an Economic Critique, and a Masterpiece
Mira Nair’s third masterpiece—her first is, of course, Salaam Bombay!, and the second is Mississippi Masala—succeeds as a political thriller (big themes, big images, big Hollywood sound), a work of global cinema (it connects several stories in very different and distant societies—the United States, Turkey, the Philippines, and Pakistan), and as a criticism of the dominant economic form for the past 30 years (market fundamentalism).
The film concerns a young, bright, and ambitious Pakistani man, Changez (Riz Ahmed), who after obtaining a business degree from Princeton enters a position in a Wall Street firm that makes its money in much the same way that Romney’s Bain Capital does (stripping vulnerable companies of their value). Changez is on top of the world until two planes bring down the Twin Towers. Suddenly, the society he loves is transformed into a society that hates him, his color, his culture, and his religion. Changez returns to Pakistan a bitter and broken man but eventually becomes a popular anti-American professor at a university in Lahore. His lectures are fiery, his followers dedicated, and his commitment to Islamist politics is absolute. But that is not the end of the story. There is an important surprise near the end of Nair’s third masterpiece.