Drama Five Minarets in New York splits its time between New York and Turkey. After a series of covert raids and rough interrogations, one criminal reveals the identity of a dangerous international terrorist referred to by the codename ‘Dajjal’. Under duress, the man tells Turkish police officers that the person they’re looking for is Hadji Gumush (Haluk Bilginer).
In New York, Agent David Becker (Robert Patrick) and his team from the FBI receive a warrant from Interpol and arrest Muslim scholar and family man Hadji Gumush. His wife Maria (Gina Gershon), daughter and friend Marcus (Danny Glover) seem clueless about his past and believe him to be innocent. Hadji appears to be a devoted husband and father but could this just be a front for his sinister true identity?
Two Turkish secret service officers called Firat (Mahsun Kirmizigül) and Acar (Mustafa Sandal) are sent to America to extradite Hadji. On their way to the airport to fly him back to Turkey, their cars come under attack and Hadji escapes custody. His friend Marcus planned the escape and helps him go into hiding to elude the authorities because he fears that Hadji won’t be treated fairly if he’s taken back to Turkey. Firat and Acar hunt for Hadji and when they find him he submits to being taken to Istanbul. After spending some time with him, they start to have doubts about his guilt. But if he’s innocent, why has he been accused of being a fundamentalist and the leader of an international terror network?
Five Minarets in New York was written and directed by Mahsun Kirmizigül, who also stars in the film as one of the main characters. This is his third film and, following two solely Turkish productions, it is his English-language debut. He spent all the profit he made from his previous movies on the making of this one, and he manages to not stray too far from his roots.
The film examines whether a man’s innocence or guilt matters to someone who is blinded by and hunting for vengeance, and asks the audience to think about how far they’d go to bring someone to justice. There is an interesting twist at the end of the film that turns the events on their head. The hunted man and one of his hunters are revealed to have more in common than it first appeared.
Large parts of the film are uninvolving as viewers are given minimal background information about many of the characters, who are quite one-dimensional. No one stands out as the person we should be identifying with and rooting for. The constant uncertainty about Hadji’s guilt is the main focus of attention for the viewer. There is also a difficult balance in the film as it switches between American thriller and Turkish film commenting on Islamophobia. There is decent American talent, with three well-known actors who are impressive if a little underused in their supporting roles. The thought-provoking story effectively draws the audience’s attention and as it reaches its conclusion, the strands unwind to reveal a smart sub-plot underneath.