Combustible Celluloid
With: Jim Caviezel, Claudia Karvan, Hal Ozsan, Stelio Savante, Bijan Daneshmand, Isabelle Adriani
Written by: Cyrus Nowrasteh
Directed by: Cyrus Nowrasteh
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language
Running Time: 107
Date: 09/18/2020

Infidel (2020)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Faith Heeler

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This "inspired by true events" drama is presented in a blandly impersonal, uninspired manner, with wobbly, uneven filmmaking, a dull lead character, and a mixed collection of messages about faith.

In Infidel, Doug Rawlins (Jim Caviezel) is a journalist and blogger on the subject of Christianity. He and his wife, State Department official Liz (Claudia Karvan), are invited to a graduation celebration, honoring the daughter, Meena (Noor Taher) of Doug's friend and colleague Javid (Aly Kassem). Later they receive a call, stating that Meena has disappeared.

The police investigate and discover a downstairs room, filled with extremist Islamic propaganda, and Javid is arrested. Then, Doug is invited to speak on a TV program in Cairo, and while there, he makes some controversial remarks. Back at his hotel, he is kidnapped and taken to Tehran, where tormentor Ramzi (Hal Ozsan) forces him to write in his blog. Meanwhile, Liz tries to use her government connections to rescue her husband, but finds that she's on her own.

Doug, the lead character of Infidel, remains rather flat throughout, and when he is kidnapped it could be for two possible reasons, rather than one strong reason. It could be that writer/director Cyrus Nowrasteh intended to use one of these reasons as a red herring, but instead it (the controversial TV interview) just ends up hanging there for apparently no reason. Meanwhile, the movie occasionally seems to be open to exploring different kinds of faiths and beliefs, but it always pulls back and returns to Doug's being the "correct" one; he even gets to "forgive" his tormentor/kidnapper at one point.

Perhaps because of this character flaw, Doug's relationship with his wife — who renounced her faith after losing her unborn baby in a car accident — isn't explored very deeply. How do they communicate or connect with such different value systems? However, Liz is a crackerjack character, and Claudia Karvan plays her with plenty of vibrant gusto. And Hal Ozsan's kidnapper/tormentor Ramzi is also quite a bit more interesting and amusing than he had any right to be.

Infidel briefly comes alive when these characters are driving the scene, but the filmmaking comes in to stall things once again. The camera drifts and shambles uneasily, and the seemingly random cuts are both jarring and rhythmically monotonous.

Movies Unlimtied