Unknowns of `Terrorist' make it timeless, haunting

April 21, 2000|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

"The Terrorist," which opens today at the Charles, stars Ayesha Dharkar as Malli, a 19-year-old woman living in India who has spent most of her life training to be a terrorist. The film follows her through the last training mission of her life, which will end in a suicide bombing.

Directed with equal parts sensuousness and simplicity by cinematographer Santosh Sivan, "The Terrorist" unfolds with a peaceful deliberateness that belies the horror of what is about to befall the main character.

Sivan never tells the audience just what Malli is fighting for, or who the "VIP" is that she's supposed to kill, which gives "The Terrorist" a haunted, timeless quality. Sivan has said he was inspired to write the film after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

Dharkar is transfixing as a young woman of unsettling mettle, who finds herself rethinking her future as she contemplates her past.

John Malkovich has been "The Terrorist's" champion since he saw the film two years ago at the Cairo Film Festival. He deserves high praise for introducing American filmgoers to a movie that otherwise we might never have seen.

`The Terrorist'

Starring Ayesha Dharkar

Directed by Santosh Sivan

Released by Phaedra Cinema

Unrated (some violence)

Running time 95 minutes

Sun score * * *

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