Relations between east and west, and the experience of the subcontinent diaspora in Britain and North America, have been the predominant concern of Mira Nair. Her perceptive, generous, inquiring films have pursued issues that the older, more reserved, less politically engaged Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala team held back from. Based on a well-regarded novel by Mohsin Hamid, this schematic film interweaves two narratives in 2011 Lahore.
In the present a Jewish-American journalist, Robert Lincoln (Liev Schreiber), known for his sympathetic approach to Pakistan, is sent to interview a leading pro-Islamic intellectual, Changez Khan (Riz Ahmed), in the tense atmosphere of a cafe frequented by student activists. His task is to discover whether Changez was involved in the abduction of an American visiting professor at the local university. That is the thriller aspect.
The second strand centres on Changez insisting upon telling his life story as a pro-western upper-class Pakistani, educated at Princeton, drawn into the world of western capitalism as an economic analyst specialising in corporate downsizing, and in love with an American conceptual artist. Suddenly 9/11 makes him question all his values, and he returns home to become a lucid exponent of anti-capitalist ethics and principles. But does this make him a fundamentalist or a spokesman for terrorism? And is he any more compromised in the war against terror than the man called Lincoln? The film holds one's attention through the seriousness of the debate it proposes. But one's interest is diminished as the dramatic focus becomes unclear, petering out in well-meaning rhetorical confusion. Changez is a prodigious student who completes his Bachelors in Finance from Princeton University and joins Underwood Samson, a consultancy firm, as analyst. He vacations in Greece, after graduating from Princeton, with fellow Princetonians where he meets Erica, who is an aspiring writer. He is instantly smitten by her, but his...
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