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  Publicity Stills of "Rendition"
(Courtesy from Warner Bros)

Genre: Thriller
Director: Gavin Hood
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Jake Gyllenhaal, Meryl Streep, Alan Arkin
RunTime: 2 hrs 3 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Rating: M18 (Some Mature Content)

Official Website: www.renditionmovie.com/

Opening Day: 25 October 2007


When Egyptian born chemical engineer, Anwar El-Ibrahim (Omar Metwalley) disappears on a flight from South Africa to Washington DC, his American wife, Isabella (Reese Witherspoon) travels to Washington to try and learn the reason for his disappearance. Meanwhile, at a secret detention facility somewhere outside the US, CIA analyst Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is forced to question his assignment as he becomes a party to the unorthodox interrogation of El-Ibrahim.

Movie Review:

Torture resides as the central political malady in “Rendition”, a film that offers its own rendition on the same mode of delivery as the recent slate of preening guilt trips masquerading as erudite essays on macro issues that zeros in on the turmoil it causes in the microcosm of American lives. Continuing the tradition of situating American consciousness as the compass of world events, an Americanised Egyptian, Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally) with a heavily pregnant American wife, Isabella (Reese Witherspoon) is yanked off his plane home and is detained and systematically terrorised by the American government. It strenuously refers to the policy of “extraordinary rendition”, in which persons suspected of terrorist activities are transferred and imprisoned in foreign countries for an indefinite amount of time without due process, where they are kept out of sight, and out of mind.

“Rendition” carries its heft around, swinging it at anyone who will give it some attention. “Tsotsi” director Gavin Hood sweeps aside the particulars of his subject and focuses, instead, on simplifying the big issues that derive from the ethical conundrums and logistical nightmares of the war on terror. Its timeliness has wavered considerably given the gradual descent of Bush II’s administration that it so lovingly skewers, and as the issue of torture is being given a larger arena in Democratic debates all round the calendar year, given the approaching party Presidential nomination date. But what does come through loud and surprisingly clear is its outrage over the utterly cavalier attitude that its government has for foreign lives. It’s not as discursively dry as “Syriana” was, but this film’s anger is still what ultimately dooms it when talking points are given but never really explored, preferring instead to return to its stupefying sermons of American responsibility.

Meryl Streep doesn’t miss a beat in her transition from fashion dominatrix, Miranda Priestly to neoconservative CIA ghoul at the centre of Anwar’s disappearance, Corrine Whitman, a drawled out Cheney impression recalling her own arc as Eleanor Shaw in “The Manchurian Candidate” remake. Evil without the tantalising taste of self-reflection and over the top churlishness, Whitman becomes a caricature of the ills that pervade the halls of Washington, not at all an unfair representation given the audacity of real life politicos. Jake Gyllenhaal’s CIA analyst turned torture greenhorn, Douglas Freeman croaks to Whitman over the phone that this is his first torture, and then develops a conscience. Crudely drawn for audiences to relate to, Freeman is trapped (another one of the film’s handling of subtle ironies) between his duty and his morality, mirroring the country’s minefield over constitutional rights and national security.

Presentation in an art form does not immediately equal support and agreement. This is the sort of film that doesn’t get stuck in the quagmire of indecision because there will always be a base to congratulate its politics, even when the product itself doesn’t present incongruities to challenge established notions of what we think we already know. Its relativist views on the global malfunction of accepted policies eventually give way to the spineless, yielding gesture of defeatism that seems to be analogous with the cynical nature of the BIG ISSUE films that the Hollywood mainstream churns out.

Movie Rating:

(What does “Rendition” say that hasn’t already been said before?)

Review by Justin Deimen

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