Written by Ayad Akhtar, Joseph Castelo and Tom Glynn
Directed by Joseph Castelo
Running Time: 1:33
for violent images, some language and nudity.
The War Within was a moving and disturbing look at the inner mind of a person who goes from being a simple student to becoming a terrorist.
Hassan was a student in Paris when out of nowhere he is abducted and taken to Karachi. There, he is tortured for information relating to a terrorist plot he knows nothing about. Three years later he travels, hidden, to New York where he meets up with people who are planning a massive attack on the city. But when his team is arrested, Hassan must decide whether to continue with the attack, or leave it all behind. He is now living with an old friend of his from back home and can see them living out the American dream of a peaceful, happy life. Hassan can have that too if he chooses, but will his devotion to the cause over power everything?
The basic story of The War Within was interesting. Would Hassan, being able to see an old friend prosper in America, still be able to carry out a horrific bombing, especially knowing that a girl who he likes works nearby? The problem is that we don't get a lot of background on Hassan in order to help us understand his motivation. He is captured almost immediately as the movie starts, and we see flashbacks throughout the film to what happened after that, but it was all rather murky. He was being interrogated by one of his own people so what would make him want to harm the United States? We see him in prison meeting up with a more hard line extremist, but that meeting only lasted a few seconds. Suddenly it is three years later and Hassan is being smuggled into the U.S. ready to blow the country apart. What was said to him to make him change his personality so much? He bases everything he does on the Koran and its teachings, but we never really learn what those teaching are. What we do see is a man, obviously conflicted, who goes through life in a daze, not really sure what to do, and almost committing the crime because of lack of anything better to do. I would have loved to have seen more background on his character to understand why he was willing to sacrifice everything for his cause.
All that being said, I thought the overall tone of the film and the performances helped carry the day. Ayad Akhtar as Hassan was tremendous in showing the conflict going on in his head. He seemed to believe that was he was doing was the right thing, but at the same time wondered if there was something he was missing. He was a man in deep despair over what had happened to him and he needed to lash out and anything. His comrade in prison gave him that excuse and he ran with it. As I said before, some more background on his character would have helped differentiate between acting out for a deeper reason or acting simply out of revenge. There is no question that what he went through was horrible and he had every reason to be angry, and I think Akhtar portrayed that simmering anger very well. I thought Firdous Bamji was wonderful as Hassan's best friend Sayeed. Sayeed had managed to put together a very nice life for his family, but in Hassan's eyes was starting to drift away from his upbringing. And I think Bamji was also conflicted between wanting to become more 'American' and after seeing Hassan, wondering if maybe he was drifting away from how he was raised. And the scene at the end of the movie with Sayeed discovering Hassan's secret and the aftermath might have been the scariest part of the movie.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall I liked The War Within. The movie made you think and see things through different eyes. I thought some more history on what happened to Hassan would have helped and made me understand whether this was about devotion to Allah or nothing more than simple revenge. But the performances and overall feel of the movie make it worth watching.
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