The first time that the heroes in the US-made film adaptation of the fantasy novel “Khalid” take an Egyptian prisoner to meet Khalid Abou El Fadl, he tells them that he is a rather ordinary chap – with no power, he has never harmed anyone. His experience has been confined to being picked up by the police and arrested.
The next day, however, they are told that this simple-minded fellow has been convicted for the murder of an elderly woman – she had her throat cut. He says he did not intend to kill her; that he found her lying alone, her legs drawn up, and that he fell on her. Now, having confessed, he hopes to be allowed home with some money so that he can pay off some debts and see his family.
What the movie makes you see is that Khalid is not quite so simple as the mysterious stranger thought him to be. As the Egyptians listen to his description of his crime, the wonder in their eyes is not merely that this is a man guilty of a terrible crime, but that this man has so far not made a single attempt to repent. That he has instead tried to keep from himself any recollection of what he has done is striking. And the further impression is that of a strong self-regard, a fierce determination to beat a confession to death.
As the Egyptian interrogator repeats his story, it is revealed that a young girl named Sofia has been in the same neighbourhood as Djamel. But Djamel cannot remember her; she has disappeared. The officers explain that in a rage, he chased her down and killed her with a blow from his knife.
To cut a long story short, Khalid sees the policeman whom Djamel had attacked, and after the policeman tries to keep him away, Khalid offers to give Djamel an explanation for the murder. But the policeman asks that they hand over a note stating that they intend to deliverto Sofia’s parents. They go and get this note, and tell Djamel that the writer, who is quite plainly a fraud, had written that Sofia had committed suicide, though he does not accept this. Khalid, however, wonders why the writer is unable to acknowledge that he killed his friend, in spite of having been sentenced to death.
Djamel admits to the writer that he indeed murdered Sofia but does not say how. Khalid then asks for the evidence against him, and Djamel, when questioned, shows him the bloodstained knife. Then Khalid accuses Djamel of attempting to poison his wife. But there is no proof that the murder had anything to do with any business or financial concerns, and Khalid is almost convinced of the falsity of Djamel’s confession.
Khalid breaks up the interrogation, and though he never demands Djamel’s return to Egypt, the film raises the question of whether the US Government wishes to see Khalid reach his full potential, and whether he will be given the chance to redeem himself? Whatever the answer, it is clear that Khalid may have found himself in a tougher position than he expected – perhaps a life of criminal activity is a lot better than his immediate circumstances would have been. Or, in other words, he is not so full of himself as he would like to believe. Indeed, so far as we can judge, Khalid is in a state of excitement about the opportunity to show people what a crime-fighting warrior he is, but he can still feel the same yearning for something, anything to rise above his circumstances. Perhaps one day, Khalid may find his way to that point of redemption.