A terrific story is compromised by the demands of commercial filmmaking, adding action-thriller scenes to what should be an introspective drama while distractingly beefing up side-roles for American stars. But at the centre is another superb performance from Riz Ahmed (Four Lions), who again takes a complex, challenging approach to the subject of terrorism.
The narrative is fragmented into flashbacks as Changez (Ahmed) tells his story to an American journalist (Schreiber) in Pakistan while a tense hostage situation swirls all around them. Years earlier, Changez was a high-flying Pakistani student, graduating from Princeton and landing a prestigious job on Wall Street when an executive (Sutherland) recognises his talent. He also has a sexy artist girlfriend (Hudson). But all of this is shaken after the 9/11 attacks, when he is harassed by police and immigration officials. Fundamentally changed, he returns to Lahore to become a lecturer in violent uprisings. But this makes the CIA think that he's become a terrorist himself. Perhaps he has.
The various strands of the story are intriguing, and the actors are all watchable as they add layers to Changez's overall story. But the jumbled structure of the film reduces the narrative to a series of seemingly unrelated scenes. Hudson and Sutherland are solid but add little beyond their characters' stereotypical American reactions to Changez's decisions. The always superb Schreiber is better used as a more shady figure. But other characters vanish just when they get interesting, such as Changez's parents, played by acting legends Puri and Azmi.
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At midnight on August 15th 1947, India gained their independence from Britain during the decline of the British Empire. 'Midnight's Children' tells the story of how at that exact same time, a boy by the name of Saleem Sinai was born; a boy who soon learned that he was extraordinary in many ways as he possessed magical telepathic powers as a result of the time he was born. He later learns that other children born at the same time also have similar powers and he sets up a kind of club of all the Indian children born between midnight and 1 a.m. Along the way he clashes with Shiva, another Midnight Child who finds himself despising Saleem for his wealthy upbringing which is a strong contrast to his own poverty stricken life. Little do they both know, however, that they were deliberately switched at birth and fated to live the life the other son should've had.
'Midnight's Children' is the emotional fantasy drama adapted from Salman Rushdie's 1981 novel of the same name which won the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize on its publication. The author also wrote the screenplay in his feature film debut alongside director Deepa Mehta ('Heaven on Earth', 'Bollywood/ Hollywood'). It is set for release on December 26th 2012 in the UK.
Directed: Deepa Mehta
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