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The War Within (Unrated)

Release Date: September 30th, 2005 (NYC-Landmark Sunshine Cinemas) by Magnolia Pictures.
The Cast: Ayad Akhtar, Firdous Bamji, Nandana Sen, Samrat Chakrabarti, Sarita Choudhury
Directed by Joseph Castelo.

BASIC PREMISE: Hassan (Akhtar) travels from Pakistan to New York to stay with his childhood Sayeed (Bamji) while he plans a terrorist attack on Grand Central Station.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Even four years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the subject of terrorism is very difficult and frightening to even think about let alone watch. Writer-director Joseph Castelo is very bold for choosing such a sensitive subject and incorporating into a fictionalized story. Every actor gives a strong, convincing performance that increases how real the film feels--almost like a documentary. But it's really Akhtar who makes Hassan into a shockingly human character despite his actions. Most of the film is character-driven and there is plenty of drama. Surprisingly, there is no graphic violence--although there is one inevitable fight. Even though the audience. However, Sayeed and his sister Duri (Sen) have no clue what Hassan is up to, even though he spends a lot of time alone in their basement. Hassan looks very ordinary and even friendly, but the audience knows exactly what he is up to. In the beginning of the film, he shows a great interest in touring Grand Central Station where he buys something very special for Duri that ends up becoming very important later on. The final 30 minutes are the most chilling, with a faster pace, as he is hours away from detonating his suicide bomb while Sayeed and his sister are desperately trying to stop him.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: How an ordinary-looking man can commit such a terrible act is hard to understand, but this film does not demand an answer nor does it give one. Rather, it says a lot by what it shows. For example, in one scene a police officer stops Hassan when he is suspiciously parked near a bridge at night. Hassan does end up at the police station for not having proper identification, but he is just released with a warning. This is one instance that the police should have been more tough and thorough. Their physical toughness is only shown toward Sayeed and Duri who had no idea that they were harboring a terrorist. The ultimate message is that it is important to be more perceptive about your surroundings and who, especially, who you invite into your home.



THE BOTTOM LINE: A disturbing, well-acted, and haunting film. Joseph Castelo tackles a bold subject and turns it into 90 minutes of chilling suspense.

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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