Friday, February 1, 2008


This is a really heavy movie, and it's fairly well done. The only thing that holds it back is its almost too obvious message. It's a powerful and important message, don't me wrong, but it's just a little too straightforward and clean cut for me. Such an important and hotly debated issue as the one presented in Rendition, could have stood to have its edges blurred a bit.

The issue I am refering to is the torture of terrorist suspects. The suspect in this particular case is Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally) an Egyptian born engineer who is secretly kidnapped and taken to an overseas detention center. There is no information revealed about his whereabouts, and his wife, Isabella (Reese Witherspoon) is left completely in the dark. All she knows is that her husband never returned from a business trip. Meanwhile, Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a government operative sent to observe the interrogation techniques of Abasi Fawal (Yigal Naor) as he questions Ibrahimi. Freeman functions as the obligatory voice of reason, dismayed at the brutal torture inflicted on the most likely innocent Ibrahimi.

At the same time, there is another plot focusing on Fawal's runaway daughter. She is in a relationship with a man who beings to fall in with a terrorist organization. This story doesn't seem to connect with the rest of it until the very end. It doesn't do anything more than explain the motive of other characters. Frankly, I think the movie would have been better without it.

The best part of the movie was Witherspoon. She contacts and old friend, Alan Smith (Peter Sasgaard), who is a senator's aid, to help her find Anwar. The two of them have to buck protocol and take on the senator (Alan Arkin) and the CIA director ( Meryl Streep). Honestly, can you get a better cast than this? It's no wonder that Witherspoon is currently the highest paid actress. She is so emotional, and is just a stellar actress. This plot alone would have made a wonderful movie.

The focus, however, is of course the interrogation of Ibrahimi. It was all a bit too obvious for me now. Gyllenhaal spouts off phrases like "how much useful information have we ever got from tortured suspects?" Or the Streep response " There are 7,000 people alive on London today because of information we got doing this." Or perhaps the hokiest of all, Sasgaard's "Maybe I should send a copy of the Constitution over to your office."

This is certainly a powerful movie, and some parts got to me, so I will still pretty highly recommend it. It just seems that with the current debate of this topic, Rendition is so much an exploration into the issue, as it is promoting one side. I don't mind if a movie has an agenda (after all, most serious ones do)- I just don't like it when it's so obvious.


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