Traditionally, movies that adapt or borrow from real-life situations tend to include some unbelievable elements for overblown, dramatic intent. “Infidel”, which is based on true events, doesn’t rely on such antics. Instead, this is one of the most authentic-feeling films of 2020.
Doug (Jim Caviezel) is a Christian journalist and blogger living in Washington D.C. with wife Liz (Claudia Karvan). The opening scene is a flash forward to an intense moment for Doug (which I won’t spoil here). We then go back in time six months. The story starts slowly, especially compared to what’s to come.
Caviezel, you may remember, starred in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” (2004). The parallels between Jesus’ final days and the situation Doug finds himself in are not subtle. As a devout Christian, Doug believes in sharing his beliefs publicly. He’s invited to Egypt to take part of a world religious symposium. During a TV appearance, seen by Muslims throughout the globe, Doug declares that Jesus is God (not Allah). He instantly becomes a target.
Doug is kidnapped by members of the Iranian regime and held prisoner. He’s falsely accused of crimes, is beaten and threatened with execution. He remains soft-spoken and steadfast in his beliefs. Sound familiar?
Liz works for the U.S. State Department. She tries to use her political connections to get Doug out. When that fails, she employs a different strategy. Caviezel and Karvan share equal screen time and both deliver grounded performances: overwhelmed, confused, frustrated and determined. These are two of the more authentic on-screen protagonists of the film year.
Writer/Director Cyrus Nowrasteh presents a more restrained “hostage” movie than we regularly get from Hollywood-based filmmakers. Action scenes, including both foot and car chases, aren’t high octane, Liam Neeson film-esque. Nowrasteh also exposes, once again (following his 2008 film “The Stoning of Soraya M”) the dangerous and abusive realities of life in the Middle East. Only a few scenes in the final act briefly provide relief from the consistently serious tone.
If you’re willing to go to an indoor movie theater right now (and support multiplexes that could really use the business), “Infidel” is a solid choice.