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Cannes Review: Boy from Heaven is an Engaging, Conventional Mosque-Set Spy Thriller

Cannes Review: Boy from Heaven is an Engaging, Conventional Mosque-Set Spy Thriller

Spy thrillers are a dime a dozen. Rarer is encountering one set in an Egyptian mosque, much less Al-Azhar, one of the most significant mosques in Islamic history and home of the great imam, the highest-ranking Muslim leader in Egypt. Tarik Saleh’s Boy from Heaven embraces both realities, for better and worse.

Saleh’s screenplay hits every convention of the subgenre, as distilled following the spy thriller formula to a T. The direction more or less follows suit—sans action sequences, which don’t belong in the quiet, stern, and measured atmosphere of the mosque campus. Yet the setting and socio-political (even theological) context give it a fresh angle. Cairo’s Al-Azhar isn’t just a mosque. It doubles as the most lauded Islamic institution in the country, the Harvard for those who want to study Islam at the highest level. We enter the film when the current grand imam dies,

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