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3 reviews, 5 user ratings

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War Within, The
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by Dennis Swennumson

"A film about the state of international relations, thats not a documentary!"
5 stars

“It reminds me of a mosque back home” is how Hassan (Ayad Akhtar) initially describes Grand Central Station during his first visit to the United States. Coming relatively early in the film, this is the most significant line spoken during “The War Within.” The young Pakistani is actually a suicide bomber in training, in the country to blow up the landmark. The first film to explore and portray Islamic terrorism in post 9/11 America, “The War Within” does struggle with its dramatic elements in terms of plot and character development. However “The War Within” does make up for its flaws with sheer, brutal relevance, it is the most important picture of the year.

“The War Within” opens with a flashback taking place three years ago, with Hassan as an engineering student in Paris. One second he is walking the street, discussing movies with a friend on a cell phone, the next second he is apprehended by agents of an unspecified intelligence agency. The story does not explicitly reveal what happened to Hassan over that three year time frame, but it is implied that he, like many other detainees, never formally received the charges for his imprisonment and he may have very well been tortured. Through the persistence of his cell mate Khalid (Charles Daniel Sandoval), Hassan absorbs the teachings of radical Islam. Even though the events and details of the current Administration’s War on Terror are presented to our society in such a cluttered and tangled manner, there many sequences throughout the film that are evidently born in true fact. It’s hard to remember that “The War Within” is a work of fiction, based in a reality that dominates our lives.

After a turbulent sequence of events involving Hassan’s terrorist cell, it would be unfortunate to describe them in detail here, Hassan’s lifelong best friend Sayeed (Firdous Bamji) offers a temporary residence with his family. It is here the movie becomes reminiscent of 1999’s “Arlington Road”, or a much more important version of that film. Hassan rekindles a past of innocent romance with Sayeed’s sister Duri (Nandana Sen), and more importantly balances Hassan’s extremist judgments and beliefs by surrounding him with Muslims embracing America despite its evident flaws. There are many sequences of infinite interest involving Hassan and the family, one most notably takes place at a picnic, where the mere debate of Middle Eastern occupation inspires Hassan to quietly lash out.

This is the highlight of the film, there are so many diversified perspectives used to explore the world’s current political climate. What enhances this quality is the nature of these perceptions, these are opinions and ideals conveyed from characters that would not often be seen- rather, taken seriously- on a loudmouth pundit’s drive time talk show or a conservative news network’s debate show. Though “The War Within” is far from a perfect narrative film, screenwriters Ayad Akhtar and Joseph Castelo attempt to juggle too many story elements and there are aspects of the plot that get lost in the shuffle.

But what matters is how the filmmakers address the film’s crucial themes, the movie going population needs to see this kind of subject matter dramatized in this way- in a gripping, controversial, and realistic fashion without the faux, glossy finish of a Hollywood thriller.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12902&reviewer=338
originally posted: 10/20/05 21:06:57
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/28/06 Phil M. Aficionado Watch the 1st half hour at least with the commentary on. Excellent work all around 5 stars
10/22/05 baseball-nut Definitely held my attention and I'd say it's an owner for sure! 4 stars
10/07/05 dimkpa very fine 3 stars
9/12/05 Mark Interesting. Makes you think 4 stars
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  30-Sep-2005 (R)
  DVD: 31-Jan-2006



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