Release Date – 14th April 2023, Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 1 minute, Director – Tarik Saleh
Having recently arrived in Cairo to attend university Adam (Tawfeek Barhom) finds himself caught up as a pawn in a power battle between religion and state.
Cairo Conspiracy isn’t a thriller of tension, instead it’s one of dramatic intrigue. As a power battle plays out between religion and state interest is created through the general style in which writer-director Tarik Saleh displays the world which whole occasionally spilling into the streets is confined within the walls of Al-Azhar university. An already unfamiliar setting for central figure Adam (Tawfeek Barhom), the son of a fisherman from a remote town he hopes to one day become an imam after having shown promise for many years with his knowledge. However, he quickly finds himself becoming a pawn in the bid for power from the state, looking to control the next Grand Imam after the previous figure suddenly passes away.
Rising up the ranks through various groups and assistant roles Adam reports much of his work and findings back to Colonel Ibrahim (Fares Fares) from State Security, who himself is closely linked to the bid to seize power. At times certain points about the battle between religion and state are slightly forgotten about as various elements of Adam’s journey are drawn out as the main point at hand. Yes, it links to the reason for much of this happening, but it does feel as if what the central figure is doing at a particular time is more of an isolated focus than anything else at certain times.
There’s a rather slow burn nature to the proceedings which if anything adds to the style in which things are captured. They allow you to become more caught up within the events and the way in which they pan out; it fits the world in which this story is taking place in. While there may be a wish for more darkness and bite during a handful of scenes, particularly those up-close and personal moments which truly show the threat at hand, as whole the film tells its story rather well within its just-about-comfortable time frame. Occasionally the gradual pacing may put you at a slight distance, largely when Adam’s almost chaptered story is isolated from everything around it, but the more things develop, particularly in the final half an hour, the more the intrigue increases and makes for a more engaging piece of work.
Things move along well enough and while they might not have the darkness which could emphasise certain points and bring about a sense of tension the dramatic sensibilities held within the world of the film are enough to help things move along. Occasionally there might be a separated feeling to the events, especially around the midpoint of the film, but there’s enough to like and find some form of interest in (perhaps personally pushed by a lack of familiarity with the location and some of the workings which the film depicts) to make for worthwhile viewing.
The slow burn nature of Cairo Conspiracy helps to push the dramatic intrigue and the contained world in which the events pan out, while occasionally the central character’s perspective may separate from the base of the film there’s an interesting enough set of events which eventually smooth out to make for solid viewing.