In 2007, FBI agent Roshan (Irrfan Khan) tasks Indian immigrant Omar (Neil Nitin Mukesh) with spying on his college buddy, Sam (John Abraham), whom The Bureau suspects of being a terrorist. The job forces Omar to deal with his feelings for Maya (Katrina Kaif), another friend from college whom he hasn’t seen since September 11, 2001: a day that changed the friends’ lives forever.
Relative newcomer Mukesh capably carries the weight of the film as Omar, even playing opposite superstars like Kaif and Abraham. The plot is detailed enough to make it a believable spy thriller, but never loses focus on the story of love and friendship at its core.
New York has the extra responsibility of addressing a sad truth. Hundreds of Muslim men were arrested by the FBI in the days after 9/11, abused and detained for months in the U.S. before being released without charges (the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled on the related case of Ashcroft v. Iqbal). Writer Aditya Chopra and director Kabir Khan handle the subject compassionately, and yet with an objectivity I’m not sure most American filmmakers would be capable of, less than eight years after 9/11.
An American film would likely err on the side of either über-patriotism or empathy for those whose situations have driven them to violence. New York deftly avoids this by aligning itself against both extremes.
The film condemns the zeal and prejudices which led American law enforcement agents to target Muslims and men of Arab and South Asian descent. But the movie is no kinder to those ex-detainees whose desire for revenge against their captors might lead them to terrorism. Chopra & Khan’s ultimate message is that the cycle of revenge traps us all in the past.
The movie contains some graphic scenes of torture. Also, theater websites incorrectly list New York‘s runtime as 1 hr. 48 min.; it’s closer to 2 hrs 30 min.