This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
Malli is only 19, a young woman who has spent all of her life within the closed world of a movement. She accepts its values without question. Her brother died for the cause. She has killed for it, comfortable with weapons, moving through the jungle where her guerrilla unit operates. When she is not fighting, she is simply a young girl, giggling with her friends. There is nothing hardened about her. We look in her enormous eyes and see they are open to life and love.
One day, her group is summoned to a meeting. A volunteer is needed to become a suicide bomber, who will place a garland of flowers around the neck of a political leader and detonate explosives that will kill them both. Malli volunteers. Her girlfriends cluster around in excitement, as if she has won a beauty contest. There is no greater honor than to die for the cause.
Santosh Sivan's "The Terrorist" (1999) was filmed in India in the Tamil language. He says it was inspired by the assassination of the Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. But in the movie, no country is identified, no name is attached to her target, and no ideology or religion is attached to her movement.
This is not a film about the rightness or wrongness of her cause or the political situation that inspired it. It simply and heartbreakingly observes for a few days as a young woman prepares to become a suicide bomber. Her story is told with a minimum of onscreen violence and little in the way of action scenes; if Truffaut was correct, and war movies argue for war by making it look exciting, "The Terrorist" looks the other way.