Realer and more consequential than much being packaged for TV and movies these days as ”reality,” the fictional In This World unfolds with the deceptive dispassion of a documentary, but builds with a sure sense of dramatic epic. The subject of Michael Winterbottom’s reverberating, risk-taking movie is the fate of Jamal, an Afghan teenager in Pakistan (played by Afghan teenage nonactor Jamal Udin Torabi) who decides to leave his barren refugee camp and journey to London. The kid can speak some English, which he leverages: Jamal will serve as companion and guide for his older, less worldly cousin if his uncle pays a Peshawar people trafficker – savvy Jamal knows one – to smuggle the two young men into England.
Their arduous route includes a rattling overland stretch spent crouched in a truck bed among boxes of oranges and a horrifying sea crossing sealed with other wretched gamblers in a cargo container ship. Shooting on digital video with on-the-fly immediacy and available lighting – only a low, woe-is-the-world musical score sticks out as ”art” – Winterbottom’s skill is to suggest millions in this world in the story of two.