We know the London-born Dev Patel as a serious actor, in such movies as “Lion” and “Slumdog Millionaire,” but in Michael Winterbottom’s oblique thriller “The Wedding Guest,” we get to imagine something different: Dev Patel, action star.
Patel stars here as a man on a journey to Pakistan. His name isn’t important, and in fact he uses several within the movie’s first minutes. This man, a British Muslim, is traveling to Pakistan for a wedding to be performed in the Islamic tradition. But he’s not there simply as a guest, but to kidnap the bride, Samira (Radhika Apte).
His motive for kidnapping Samira is simple: He’s being paid. But the motive of Deepesh (Jim Sarbh), the man who is paying him, isn’t so clear. Neither, at first, is Samira’s motive for going along with it.
Winterbottom, whose repertoire ranges from comedies (“The Trip,” “Tristram Shandy”) to dramas (“A Mighty Heart”), sends this mystery man and his willing captive through an intense ride through the breadth of India. The film is shot almost entirely on location in Amritsar, Jaipur, Goa and other Indian cities, as well as in the countryside — and the contrasting cultures within India’s diverse regions become a counterpoint to the action, and a reminder of how easy two people might get lost in a nation of more than a billion people.
The plot is a bit thin and lacking in big action moments. But the chemistry between the tightly wound Patel and the poker-faced Apte, a fast-rising Bollywood star, is electrifying, and one hopes they each have more opportunities to smolder on the screen.
‘The Wedding Guest’
Opened March 8 in select cities; opens Friday, March 22, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas (Salt Lake City). Rated R for language, some violence and brief nudity. Running time: 97 minutes.