The War Within (2005)

by | Jan 31, 2006 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

The War Within (2005)

Starring: Ayad Akhtar, Nandana Sen, Firdous Bamji, Sarita Choudhury
Directed by Joseph Castelo
Written by Ayad Akhtar, Joseph Castelo, Tom Glynn
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Video: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital, English
Subtitles: Spanish
Extras: Audio Commentary by writer/director Joseph Castelo and writer/actor Ayad Akhtar, Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailer
Length: 93 minutes
Rating: *****

The War Within begins in Paris when a Pakistani engineering student named Hassan (Ayad Akhtar) is kidnapped, imprisoned, and tortured for information by Western intelligence officers. It is there in prison that he is converted to radical Islam, and when he is finally released he joins other radicals to carry out a terrorist mission against the United States. They plan to blow up Grand Central Station in New York City, but the other members of his group are arrested before they can carry out their plan. Akhtar hides out in the home of a childhood friend Sayeed (Firdous Bamji), who is enamored of his new American lifestyle and affluence, and Hassan gets to see a side of the United States that he has never seen before. Finally, Hassan is left to decide whether or not to carry out his mission, regardless of the consequences to those around him.

Newcomer Akhtar portrays Hassan as a quiet, devout man, tormented by his personal history and his beliefs.  Outwardly calm and peaceful, only his eyes reveal the hurt, the pain, the fear, and the desperation that he continues to suffer. The hideous scars on his body are nothing compared to those found in his scarred psyche. Akhtar’s minimalist acting is convincing and subtle, and he is obviously an actor to watch out for. The director, Joseph Castelo, is also a newcomer, but this feature is directed with a sure and capable hand. The performances he gets from his actors are marvelous and absolutely authentic. Castelo is another one to watch.

It is much the same as when I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X that while I may not understand or approve of the actions of some groups, the story provides a unique glimpse into the minds and experiences of an oppressed and desperate people. The War Within is like that. After watching the movie, I don’t personally understand any better now how a person can take religious beliefs and turn them into a need to kill themselves and other people, but now that this film has portrayed them as complex people with tragic histories, I can no longer see them as merely faceless monsters. For better or worse, they have become real people. This is a film that all people should see. The story it tells is important and timely for all of us in the world at this moment.

 – Hermon Joyner

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