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The War Within
The War Within
Actors: Ayad Akhtar, Firdous Bamji, Nandana Sen, Sarita Choudhury, Charles Daniel Sandoval
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
NR     2006     1hr 30min

A pakistani suicide bomber travels to new york city to join his cell with plans to begin the ground war in the united states. What unfolds is a profound human & political drama as he struggles to carry out his mission. St...  more »

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Movie Details

Actors: Ayad Akhtar, Firdous Bamji, Nandana Sen, Sarita Choudhury, Charles Daniel Sandoval
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: Magnolia
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 01/31/2006
Original Release Date: 01/01/2005
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2005
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 2
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: Spanish
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Member Movie Reviews

Betty T. (BettySunshine) from WARNER ROBINS, GA
Reviewed on 2/5/2010...
Suspenseful tale of Hassan, a suicide bomber, who comes to the US and visits his old childhood friend Sayeed. Sayeed has a good life in the US but will Hassan destroy it?

Movie Reviews

Painful to watch, but truthful and scary. See it if you can
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 01/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It was inevitable that there would be a film about a terrorist bomber in New York. It's scary. And the fact that I saw it on the weekend that New Yorkers have been hearing about a terrorist plot in the subways makes it's especially timely - and especially frightening. Yes, here are all the landmarks I love so well, and the story is just too real for comfort.

The film begins in Paris shortly after 911, when Hassan, an American-educated Pakistani engineer, is forcibly arrested by American forces and sent to Karachi for interrogation and torture. When he is released three years later he is completely radicalized and goes back to America with the intent of destruction. His friend, Sayeed, knows nothing of Hassan's plans, and invites him to stay with his Americanized family in Jersey City. America has been good to Sayeed and he loves his adopted country and become increasingly shocked by Hassan's religious fervor and anti-American thinking.

There's a hint of romance with Sayeed's sister, who Hassan has known since childhood. But mostly Hassan spends a lot of time teaching Sayeed's young son the principles of the Muslim faith. When Hassan's bomb-making friends are arrested, he's left on his own, with the intention of carrying out Allah's will. He's conflicted on many levels though, struggling with his own "war within" as he moves forward to fulfill his intended purpose.

The film brings out the conflicts that exist in Muslim homes across America. There are some social gatherings where they debate these questions. Hassan sees no possibility of compromise though. He accuses his hosts of letting their soft lives in America make them weak. It is all very disturbing.

What was the most disturbing to me, though, were the shots of 42nd Street, Grand Central Station and the Holland Tunnel. And the fact that Hassan was a walking time bomb for destruction. Frankly, I couldn't help being terrified.

It is doubtful that this film will ever play in mainstream America. Already, the few critics have panned it. I think that's just because it is much too painful to watch. And the reason it's so painful is because of its truthfulness and authenticity.

This is an important film. See it if you can stand it."
A Riveting Exploration of the Soul of a Terrorist
Steve Koss | New York, NY United States | 02/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Terrorist. The very word has taken on a life of its own. The image, fostered and encouraged by the current Bush Administration, is immediate and unquestioned: irrational, undereducated, brainwashed, rabid frothing at the mouth -- evil incarnate. Now with THE WAR WITHIN, director Joseph Castelo forces us to confront the terrorism issue from the other side, through the desperate and despairing eyes of an individual whose very radicalization is spawned by America's own post-9/11 policies in Iraq and elsewhere. In doing so, he takes us into the heart and soul of an educated man bent on revenge against the monolith that is America, telling a story whose depth and complexity put Hollywood's recent version, SYRIANA, to shame. THE WAR WITHIN is a brilliant and compelling examination of the many "wars within" - within the borders of the United States, within the American psyche, within a man's soul, within a circle of family and friends, even within the hearts of children.

The focus of Castelo's tale is Hassan, an engineer by training, a graduate of the University of Maryland who has furthered his studies in France. Seized on the streets of Paris by American forces under the policy of extraordinary rendition, Hassan is spirited away to Karachi, Pakistan where he is befriended by his cellmate, Khalid. Hassan is beaten and horribly tortured for information and is shown a brutally violent picture of his dead brother Mustafa, but he insists he knows nothing (a situation director Castelo properly leaves intentionally ambiguous). Three years later, Hassan enters the United States as a stowaway in a huge shipping container and reconnects with Khalid through the mysterious Izzy. We quickly learn that Khalid and Hassan himself have been radicalized (although we are not shown the process), presumably as a result of their treatment at the hands of their American kidnappers. They have joined a sleeper cell in New Jersey planning multiple simultaneous bombings in New York City.

At the same time the bombing plans are underway, Hassan visits the home of his long time friend Sayeed, a doctor who has happily settled into the American way of life, complete with wife, two children, and a live-in sister, Duri. Sayeed invites Hassan to stay in his home until he can find a job and get on his feet financially, a decision that leads to tragic consequences for Sayeed and his family. Sayeed senses that Hassan has changed from his younger days, that he has lost his carefree spirit and taken on the mantle of a pious religious practitioner. By the time Sayeed discovers the true nature of Hassan's transformation, it is too late; Sayeed's response only serves to pull him further into the web of Hassan's actions and make him appear to be a co-conspirator.

While not designed as an action movie, THE WAR WITHIN moves with riveting dramatic force toward an inescapable yet uncertain conclusion. We see the world through the eyes of an individual whose life was turned upside down, a man who was tortured and humiliated by a power much greater than himself, a powerless man who strikes back with the only weapons he has available. THE WAR WITHIN does not condone terrorism or sympathize with the terrorist - it simply tries to show us the other side of this phenomenon, the side we are so quick to demonize and so disinclined to contemplate. One can dismiss the perpetrators of terrorism out of hand as unworthy of such consideration, but in doing so, we fail to understand them and their motivations. As Sun Tzu said in THE ART OF WAR, "If ignorant of both your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril." As the final, heartbreaking scene of the movie suggests, our unthinking, knee-jerk responses may only serve to create the next generation of radicalized terrorists."
A Journey through the Mind, Heart and Soul of a Terrorist
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 06/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I watched this film two nights ago, and have since been continually haunted by it day and night. Has anyone else seen this amazing, harrowing and thought provoking film?

The story takes place relatively soon following September 11th. Hassan, a brilliant young Pakistani engineer - U.S. educated, now living in Paris, is mistakenly identified as a terrorist, abducted and arrested by the U.S. and sent away where he is tortured relentlessly, interrogated and broken for a period of three years. He is a liberal, non-religious man who openly disdains his fundamentalist Muslim cellmate and all he stands for. However, this cellmate bathes, feeds him and cares for Hassan tending to his wounds and patiently befriending him. Naturally, over the three years, a bond is formed (we see this mostly through flashbacks later in the film) - and upon his release Hassan heads for the United States to join a sleeper cell intent on destroying a major U.S. facility. Arriving in the U.S. he is reunited with his best friend from Pakistan and his family who have become somewhat liberal in their religion and blend into the cultural melting pot that is American society. Hassan is confused, and tortured, but devout.

I won't go into or give away further details of the tale (and the above shouldn't ruin anything - it's only slightly more elaborate than what's on the outside of the box), but the movie had me alternately enraged, uplifted and embarassed.

The performances are uniformly excellent with Ayad Akhtar taking pride of place in an absolutely astonishing big screen debut as Hassan. Combining a prideful arrogance, intelligence, confusion, newfound rabid religiousity borne of anger, Akhtar establishes Hassan's character strongly from the beginning, but still has plenty in reserve to show a remarkable arc of character development. (Akhtar also co-wrote the taut, emotional screenplay, which is a work of art.)

Naturally, the film did not do well in America, because it doesn't embrace any one idea: pro or con - of terrorism. It merely shows and serves to explain why it exists and anyone who can't wrap themselves around the "why" needs to re-examine their ideas of world history, the cultures of oppression, the Crusades and genocide in the modern world in general. "The War Within" really is a powerhouse of a film that should cause some soul searching - and a war within.