A young man named Adam (Tawfeek Barhom) often assists his father in catching fish from a boat. One morning, Adam checks the mail and discovers a surprise waiting for him- a letter confirming his acceptance into Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Many around Adam are either proud or excited as Al-Azhar is known for being a great Islamic institution. His hard work and yearning to learn have paid off with a big reward; however, Adam can’t bring himself to share the news with his father and doesn’t know how to tell him. It’s not long until his father discovers the news and claims that if God wants him to go, he will not interfere. Unlike anything he’s ever done, Adam is now on a new journey.
After arriving in Cairo, Adam adjusts to the new world of schooling. During a ceremony with all the students present, the Grand Iman suddenly suffers a health complication during his speech. Shortly after the Grand Imam is taken away, the news is announced that he died. Now a new Grand Iman is to be appointed, and a selection is made after several key leaders meet. However, certain leaders and generals have other intentions. For Adam, things are not what they seem. Now he finds himself in a dangerous place and witnesses a horrific murder. Investigating the murder is Colonel Ibrahim (Fares Fares), who begins to conduct various interviews with the students, hoping to find the truth. With good intentions, Adam mistakenly puts himself right in the middle of a major conflict between Egypt’s top religious leaders and those with strong political power.
Cairo Conspiracy carries many themes and genres. At its core, it is a slow-burning thriller packed with many twists, turns and unpredictable moments. There are also dramatic moments around themes of politics, power, corruption and religion. With many characters surrounding our leading man, Adam, it’s impossible not to continually question the real intentions of others and question their level of trust. Adam consistently wrestles with himself while proceeding cautiously and fearfully. Many throughout the film also ask what is right by man and what is deemed a sin by God, which I felt was a great concept to introduce.
Visually, this is a great-looking film. The film was clever with its lighting and shots. Close-ups wonderfully capture characters’ expressions and reactions, and impressive zoom-ins built a tense atmosphere. The performances are great. At different times characters carry the weight of suspicion and caution. As a viewer, I was engaged and rather curious about how this film would conclude. Pacing, however, was an issue for me. It’s a slow-burning thriller with lots of political talks, and the pace is far slower than preferred. Some scenes lingered, making the runtime a more considerable effort.
Overall, Cairo Conspiracy is an easy recommendation if you love a slow-burning political thriller. I enjoyed seeing the various themes and concepts this film introduced, such as if it is a sin for a man to lie if it is for the greater good. Performances here are great, and the same could be said about the directing style of Tarik Saleh, which I found to be praiseworthy and strong. There is a solid thriller here, and the characters presented had me filled with concern, questioning who was telling the truth and who was a traitor. The most significant issue is the slow pace, which I found challenging to push through, making the film feel far longer than it is.
Cairo Conspiracy (2022) is Available in Australian Cinemas from May 4th.