[T]he journalistic portraits of the 9/11 hijackers that Terry McDermott of The Los Angeles Times pieced together — from interviews with acquaintances of the hijackers, "The 9/11 Commission Report" and material from interrogations of captured terrorists — in his 2005 book "Perfect Soldiers" are a hundred times more fascinating, more nuanced and more psychologically intriguing than the cartoonish stick figure named Ahmad whom Mr. Updike has created in these pages....How I wish some filmmaker would do to this book what Stanley Kubrick did to "Red Alert"!
[He] is given to saying things like "the American way is the way of infidels," and the country "is headed for a terrible doom." Or: "Purity is its own end." Or: "I thirst for Paradise."
In other words, Ahmad talks not like a teenager who was born and grew up in New Jersey but like an Islamic terrorist in a bad action-adventure movie, or someone who has been brainwashed and programmed to spout jihadist clichés. Much of the time he sounds like someone who has learned English as a second language.
Mr. Updike does an equally lousy job of showing us why Ahmad is willing to die and kill for jihad. We're told that the imam who teaches Ahmad the Koran has become a surrogate father to the fatherless boy. We're told that Ahmad is disgusted with his flirtatious mother and her succession of boyfriends. And we're told that he wants a mission in life and can't think of anything else he wants to do after high school.
Actually, the first movie this review made me think of was not "Dr. Strangelove," it was "Napoleon Dynamite." Something about the teenager who doesn't fit in and talks funny called to mind the unforgettable dialogue:
Do the chickens have large talons?We need to make more fun of the terrorists. I don't want to see the World Trade Center burning in a horror movie. I want to see merciless fun made of the terrorists. Updike seems to be trying to understand terror-boy. Somebody throw a Kubrick at him.
Do they have what?
I don't understand a word you just said.