October 17, 2006
'The War Within'
Ayad Akhtar's movie 'The War Within' is a sensitive portrayal of Pakistanis living abroad in a post 9/11 world. The story revolves around a young Pakistani engineer studying in France whose life of normalcy comes to a screeching halt the day he's picked up as a suspect by American Intelligence and taken back to his native country, Pakistan, for interrogation. What follows is a heart rending, at times excruciatingly violent and graphic, depiction of how this normal protagonist is driven to near-lunacy and fanaticism.
A thought provoking film no doubt, but oftentimes logic-defying. For instance, how does a person just disappear off the radar for an extended period of time without anyone, not even his family, making inquiries about him? Akhtar, while trying to project the plight of ordinary immigrant Pakistanis, does get a little carried away in that he demonizes various American organizations that are but doing their duty. The USA Police is one such victim; they are presented as a bunch of non-thinking individuals who are blatantly racist. However, while dealing with the 9 year old Pakistani boy Akhtar has excelled. He's done a splendid job of capturing the impact of terrorism and its aftermath on this young mind. The viewer, regardless of his affiliations, is affronted at the quick and cruel end, almost a snatching away, of the boy's childhood.
It is said that an artistic creation usually carries a message, and I wondered about the message in "The War Within". Does it transcend the barriers of color, religion, and race, or is the message relegated to the perpetrators and the victims of 9/11? Does Akhtar's movie condone what the protagonist did? Is a terrorist born, or is he made? Who or what facilitates the making of one? I have not been able to find any clear-cut answers to any of these questions, but watching the movie I got the impression that Akhtar had.