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After a terrorist bombing kills an American envoy in a foreign country. An investigation leads to an Egyptian who has been living in the United States for years and who is married to an American. He is apprehended when he's on his way home. The U.S. sends him to the country where the incident occurs for interrogation which includes torture. An American CIA operative observes the interrogation and is at odds whether to keep it going or to stop it. In the meantime, the man's wife raises hell to find him despite being pregnant but the person behind this refuses to help or give her any information. Written by
Think of it as an extreme form of detention without trial. Without commenting and taking a side on the US Foreign Policy, the process of Extraordinary Rendition involves taking persons suspected of terrorist activities to a foreign country, an opposite to an extradition if you wish, to a place where torture is not a crime but a means to illicit information. Instead of staining your soil with blood of potentially innocent parties, you do so on foreign land where such tactics are accepted interrogation techniques.
Naturally, given the severity of the tactics and attempts at breaking down a person, sometimes you would get what you want once you pass the resistance, or get nothing, or worst of all, get a confession just because the mind has been broken to the point that the subject will agree to whatever you say. It's an ugly process, and what better way to do it when you're the champion human rights, giving the nod to use whatever means necessary in the name of protecting more lives, in an age where information is key to the battle against terror, and doing so in a country where probably the rights record is questionable.
Rendition is this year's Syriana, though in the run up to the new year we do have a number of political thriller contenders to take that crown, with Rendition first of all, followed by the Robert Redford movie Lions for Lambs, starring Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep (again, though now on the other side of the fence), and The Kingdom with Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner, though this one would probably turn out to be more action driven. Directed by Gavin Hood, who did Tsotsi and will be helming the new Wolverine spin off, Rendition is a decent thriller with a top notch cast, in a narrative that has been proved quite popular these days - the split, which provides for some ample differential perspectives to be presented through an ensemble cast.
Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally), a chemical engineer, gets renditioned en route to going home under the orders of CIA top brass Corrine Whitman (Meryl Streep). At a detention facility outside the US, Jake Gyllenhaal's CIA analyst Douglas Freeman (oh so prophetic) embarks on his very first interrogation session, no doubt being thrust into a position that he didn't sign up for. Back home, a very pregnant Reese Whitherspoon searches frantically for answers to her husband's disappearance, and sought after an ex-flame Alan Smith's (Peter Sarsgaard) assistance, since he's working for Senator Hawkins (Alan Arkin). Throw in J.K. Sinmmons, a terrorist plot investigation and a budding forbidden love story between Fatima (Zineb Oukach) and Khalid (Moa Khouas), you have quite a bit going on in a busy picture.
Given a number of casts, locations, timelines and the likes, Rendition wasn't confusing at all, and it plays out with deft handling of the material, never quick to judge, presenting ideas and thoughts from both sides of the equation. Every character has their own agenda, and the unveiling of this agenda engages enough not to bore nor to confuse you. And the best part of it all is how, very truly, they bow down to self-preservation in different forms, and ultimately, in various lose-lose situations unfortunately. It kept you guessing as well - did he or didn't he, and constantly played with your mind as to whether Anwar deserved what he's getting. It utilized one extremely smart sleight of hand which I didn't see coming until it's too late (so there goes the credit), though it did succumb to the usual stereotyping of terrorist militants, and without spending much time in depth to explore their motivations.
Perhaps it didn't find a need to, given so many movies out there already touching base on this issue (Paradise Now, Day Night Day Night, Syriana even). While it turned out to be rather one-dimensional (personal tragedy to strapping of bombs to become a suicide bomber), I felt Rendition did right in not providing any saccharine sweet ending, that this fight against negative, destructive ideology, isn't something that can be addressed in a two hour movie, and I'm glad it steered clear such fairy tale implausibilities.
What we have instead is a well crafted tale that sets its gun sights on the issue of Rendition, and probably capable enough to spark discussion once the lights come on, on which camp you belong to - do you support inflicting severe pain in interrogation? Yes or No? This is the quintessential question of our time. Yes or No? (OK, I'm already geared for Lions for Lambs)!
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