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The War Within (2005) Along with the obvious practical, political self-interest, there's an undeniable creepy voyeurism that enters our desire to know what goes on in the mind of… 2005-09-30 PT90M Drama Ayad Akhtar Nandana Sen Firdous Bamji Charles Daniel Sandoval John Ventimiglia Magnolia Pictures
Movie Review

The War Within (2005)

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The War Within | WHAT MAKES A MAN DETONATE HIMSELF IN THE NAME OF GOD? An explosive Akhtar plots
WHAT MAKES A MAN DETONATE HIMSELF IN THE NAME OF GOD? An explosive Akhtar plots
EW's GRADE
B-

Details Limited Release: Sep 30, 2005; Length: 90 Minutes; Genre: Drama; With: Ayad Akhtar and Nandana Sen; Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

Along with the obvious practical, political self-interest, there's an undeniable creepy voyeurism that enters our desire to know what goes on in the mind of a suicide bomber. In The War Within, Hassan (Ayad Akhtar), a former engineering student from Pakistan, with soft eyes and a manner so recessive he isn't quite there, joins a New York-area terrorist cell that is plotting to detonate a clutch of suicide bombs in Grand Central Terminal. Hassan blames the U.S. for the violent displacement of his Muslim brothers, and he loathes our strip-club sleaze. On top of that, he was captured, and tortured, by Western intelligence forces and has the scars to prove it.

As a psychological profile, Hassan squares with all the information you've probably ever absorbed about suicide bombers. In fact, he squares a little too neatly: He's like a news-magazine article turned into a character blueprint. In New Jersey, he moves in with an old childhood friend whose sister, Duri (Nandana Sen), he clearly has feelings for. The movie is set up as a contest of wills between Duri and Allah: Who will win the battle for Hassan's soul? The War Within plays effectively off our voyeurism, yet it has such a cloistered, American-eyed view of the nightmare of terrorism that I kept searching for the profound explanation beneath its piecemeal ones.

Originally posted Oct 05, 2005 Published in issue #844-845 Oct 14, 2005 Order article reprints