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Infidel - Movie Review

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Infidel

Iranian-American filmmaker Cyrus Nowrasteh has made quite a name for himself around Hollywood with unflinching films that pull back the curtains on governmental corruption and institutionalized abuse. His target is never limited to the American government, however, and those who try to peg the guy and his films as caustic mouthpieces for one side of the political or religious spectrum or the other, often find themselves struggling to keep their argument from falling apart.

"The schizophrenic nature of its DNA is both intriguing and confounding"


For instance, he was attacked by conservatives for his 2001 film, The Day Reagan Was Shot. And his 2006 TV mini-series The Path to 9/11 brought condemnation from liberals for its perceived conservative bias. Then in 2008, his film called The Stoning of Soraya M. was condemned by the Iranian government as propaganda, yet eventually led to a ban on stoning as a form of punishment in Iran.

Of course, all sides were correct in their initial assessment of the three productions, however all three were categorically wrong in their attempts to pigeon-hole Nowrasteh as playing to one side or the other. He’s mostly an equal opportunity antagonist and is never one to shy away from making films about uncomfortable topics that nobody likes to discuss.

However, Nowrasteh has run into problems with his latest film called Infidel which is inspired by the true story of a religious blogger who is kidnapped while speaking at a conference in Cairo by Iranian militants who accuse the journalist of being an American CIA spy.

One might guess from the film’s brief description that Nowrasteh is venturing into the thrilling world of action and espionage. Yet the title could also lead one to believe that some kind of “clash of religions” think-piece is afoot. And anyone who might take the film as a hit piece against the Iranian regime for its horrible human rights abuses certainly can’t be blamed. In fact, it’s accurate to say that Infidel is all three of these. And that’s the problem.

In the part of the story that posits Christianity against the Islamic faith, Jim Caviezel, (Passion of the Christ) is Doug Rawlins, a conservative religious blogger who is invited to speak about his faith at a conference in Cairo, Egypt. His U.S. State Department employee wife, Liz (Claudia Karvan, The Darkside) begs him not to go. But Doug is who he is and can’t resist the opportunity to share his thoughts on Jesus Christ, which naturally doesn’t go well in front of his Muslim audience. Infidel

In the spy thriller part of the film – by far its most compelling, Doug is taken against his will from Egypt and held hostage in Lebanon by Iranian Hezbollah militants where he is tended to by his somewhat sympathetic but ultimately evil handler, Ramzi (Hal Ozsan, TV’s NCIS: New Orleans). Once she eventually figures out that the U.S. government has no interest in Doug’s rescue, Liz travels to Iran by herself with hopes of persuading the Iranians to release her husband. While there, Liz uncovers not only corruption and extortion within the Iranian government, but also a hidden sect of Iranian Christians who risk their lives to help her find her husband.

If this sounds like an exciting spy thriller with death and danger around every corner, it’s because it is …mostly. But Nowrasteh, who writes and directs here, fails to zero in on the best part of the story, and instead spends too much time trying to say too much about too many other topics. The result is a busier-than-it-needs-to-be hodge-podge of thoughts and ideas that never quite gel into a tightly wound narrative.

In spite of a surprisingly emotionless turn by Caviezel, and with some exciting action sequences and strong performances from Ozsan and Karvan, it’s easy enough to find something to like in Infidel. It can certainly be enjoyed with the right mindset. But ultimately, this ripped-from-the-headlines spy thriller spreads itself too thin and never musters up enough bite to become the powerful story it sets out to be. The schizophrenic nature of its DNA is both intriguing and confounding.

2/5 stars

Infidel

Blu-ray

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Infidel

MPAA Rating: R for violence and language.
Runtime:
107 mins
Director
: Cyrus Nowrasteh
Writer:
Cyrus Nowrasteh
Cast:
Jim Caviezel, Claudia Karvan, Hal Ozsan
Genre
: Drama | Thriller
Tagline:
Prisoner Believer Fighter.
Memorable Movie Quote: "That's just who I am."
Theatrical Distributor:
Cloudburst Entertainment
Official Site:
Release Date:
September 18, 2020
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: A contemporary Middle East thriller starring Jim Caviezel as an American kidnapped while attending a conference in Cairo, who ends up in prison in Iran on spying charges. His wife goes to Iran, determined to get him out.

Infidel

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