Friday, 27 July 2012
Trading Places, the religious version: that’s what The Infidel is.
We start off with an average London adult. He loves his family, loves his drink, loves his pop music, and loves his football (Tottenham, a suitable team for what follows next). The catch is in the guy’s name, Mahmud Nasir (Omid Djalili): he’s a Muslim, and the rest of society will always tend to see him in that light no matter how Britishly he acts.
Mahmud’s pleasant life takes a bit of a hit when his son asks a favor: our Mahmud needs to pass as a proper, devout, Muslim for an upcoming “interview” by the son fiancé’s stepfather. That guy just happens to be a vocal fundamentalist Muslim cleric who is so nasty a figure his very entry to the UK is put in doubt. However hard dealing with this weirdo is, nothing prepares Mahmud for his next discovery: by coincidence, he finds that he was born to a Jewish family and was put for adoption. A rabbi’s family, nonetheless!
A crisis of identity develops. What is Mahmud, exactly? Is he a Muslim or is he Jewish? All of a sudden, all the things Mahmud took for granted – friends, work, family – all look different. Don’t worry, though: Mahmud will resolve the conflict, but only after giving us a pleasant comedy to watch with some good laughs along the way.
There can be no doubt about The Infidel being a lesser member of the film archives; it is no masterpiece. However, to judge this movie this way would be way too cruel, because other than providing good entertainment – even when that entertainment doesn’t stand the loophole scrutiny committee and when the ending feels way too contrived – The Infidel makes some very valid points about the way we regard our peers. It is an important point for contemporary society to ponder about; not just the British one in the film, but also the Australian in the here and now. Boat people, anyone?
I would argue that by clearly showing us that a person is what he/she makes himself/herself to be, regardless of what faith his/her parents followed and regardless of what society expects him/her to do, The Infidel does more to benefit society than the bulk of high budget American cinema. As for Djalili, he’s a fine comedian who knows how to generate laughs; I would very much like to see more of him in leading roles (be it on the small or the large screen).
Best scene: Mahmud is caught wet handed wearing a Kippah (yarmulke) to a pro-Palestinian demonstration.
Overall: Low on production values, entertaining and offering more than something to think about. I would say The Infidel is worth at least 3 stars; regardless of score, I quite recommend it for its simple charm.