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A rare piece of quality programming from Channel 4, I agree, but unfortunately some pretty big flaws stop it from being really great
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning
Sohail (Riz Ahmed) and Nasima (Verjinder Virk) are a British born Muslim brother and sister with differing views on Islam and modern Britain. Though he thinks the war in Iraq was unjustified and isn't shy about saying exactly what he thinks about those who hate him and the people he cares about just for the colour of their skin, Sohail also despairs of the misguided teachings of extremist Muslim scholars and, most importantly, feels he owes a huge debt of gratitude to the country that took him in, gave him a home and the best chance of a decent education and the best chances in life. On the other hand, Nasima's earliest memories are 'of them smashing our windows and putting dogshit through our letterbox...I hate this country.' And in her eyes things haven't got much better over the years. This two-part drama thriller follows the different paths these two choose, as Sohail secretly joins MI5 and has to search his conscience when he's asked to spy on his close friends and people he's grown up with. Meanwhile, Nasima's best friend is arrested and held without charge on suspicion of terrorism, but is then released, only to have ridiculous bail conditions imposed on her, learn she won't get fair representation in court and for the stress of it all to drive her to commit suicide. When Nasima's father, a strict Muslim with traditionalist beliefs, learns she's been seeing a black man, he sends her off to Pakistan for an arranged marriage. Instead, she finds herself on a journey to a terrorist training camp...and becoming a suicide bomber.
With a plot taken straight from today's headlines, Britz focuses in on two characters who are so close but so far apart. It's a hot potato story about Muslims in modern Britain and their attitudes and feelings towards UK foreign policy and their own treatment back home.
Sohail is an interesting character, who shows the problems on both sides with heavy-handed authorities who make young Muslims feel alienated but also the backward, fanatical teachings, beliefs and ideals of his own people. Nasima's story, on the other hand, zooms in on all the bad points only from the Muslim point of view, with the right to free speech/protest being chipped away, a lot of heavy-handed new anti-terror laws being introduced which give the feeling of being aimed at Muslims, and the harsh attitude they are met with by the authorities. The police are painted in a bad light in both stories. I'm sure they don't play completely by the book when going after terror suspects, but some of the behaviour they display in this does seem a bit over the top and I'm sure they wouldn't get away with it in real life.
This is an ambitious and highly-charged two-parter but at over two hours each, the narrative flow in both stories gets disjointed and doesn't flow smoothly, making it feel like a bit of a slog to sit through at times. And the ending, when it eventually comes, just doesn't pay off. I couldn't buy Nasima's transformation into a woman who's mind had been completely warped and was capable of mass murder. A lot of bad stuff had happened to her, but it just didn't feel like she'd changed to that extent. Sensationalism is a big part of the problem, here, from the portrayal of the police to Nasima's end decision. Her haunting, impassioned suicide video is a neat end, though, and reminds you of a lot of the good stuff going on here.
This set it's sights very high, and there's a lot to write home about, but some crippling flaws mean it doesn't ascend to the heights it should have. ***
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