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The War Within, Joseph Castelo (2005)

A genuinely grownup movie about the ambivalence of American Muslims. No car chases, machine guns, or wild-eyed Orientalist madmen; just a mild-mannered engineer driven by tragic happenstance to believe that he has to commit violence in order to maintain his integrity, and his best friend who is uneasily trying to live the American dream of assimilation. What’s remarkable about the movie, in addition to its lack of spectacle, is the great seriousness and complexity of its characters. No one here is one-dimensional; everyone is beset by pangs of regret, doubt, and conscience. At times the movie drags a bit, since it is a bit too in love with the long, portentuous, “actor stares into space contemplating deep questions” shot. That aside, this is a solid, moral, thoughtful, and engrossing story, a million times more utile et dulce than your typical hysterical post-9-11 terrorism movie.

P.S. What a pleasure to see Sarita Choudhury again. A beautiful woman and an extremely talented actor. I can’t resist mentioning: I slept in her bed once! (It sadly goes without saying: she wasn’t in it at the time.)

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