MRR Movie Review: Rendition

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Based on a true story, this 2007 drama film from director Gavin Hood centers on the controversial CIA practice of extraordinary rendition. Jake Gyllenhaal acts as the movie's protagonist with his role of CIA analyst Douglas Freeman. Meanwhile Reese Witherspoon is Isabella El-Ibrahimi, the American wife of Egyptian-born chemical engineer Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally) who has disappeared during a flight from South Africa to Washington. As Isabella grows frantic over the whereabouts of her husband, Douglas Freeman bears witness to an unorthodox interrogation that makes him question his assignment and his job.
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Movie Review: "Rendition"

-- Rating: R (For torture, violence, and language)
Length: 110 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 19, 2007
Directed by: Gavin Hood
Genre: Drama/Thriller

The drama movie "Rendition" is based on the story of a CIA analyst who questions the nature of his assignment after watching a detainee being interrogated in an unorthodox manner. The film was written by Kelley Sane and directed by Gavin Hood.

"Rendition" begins by showing a CIA Douglas Freeman (portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal) briefing a new CIA agent in North Africa when a suicide attack kills the agent and another eighteen people. The target of the attack is revealed to be torture expert Abasi Fawal (portrayed by Yigal Naor). The next revelation is that the family of an Egyptian-born chemical engineer living in Chicago, Anwar El-Ibrahimi (portrayed by Omar Metwally) has been linked to a terrorist organization. The engineer is detained and taken to a secret location while on his way from a conference in South Africa.

Since there are no other experienced CIA staff members in the area, Freeman is put in charge of the interrogation of Anwar. Though Freeman doubts the detainee's guilt, he is forced by his bosses to continue the interrogation by using some unorthodox means. Meanwhile, Anwar's wife gets worried and travels to the capital to consult with an old friend, Alan Smith (portrayed by Peter Sarsgaard). With time, Smith unravels the mystery behind Anwar's detention. When Anwar finally confesses, the confession is revealed to be a false one, though Freeman is unable to get him released.

When it was released, "Rendition" was billed as the first film in mainstream Hollywood to feature the practice of rendition. The practice involved kidnapping suspected terrorists and taking them to countries that tolerate torture to be interrogated. The film is made in the style famously known as international hectic-mosaic. It features stories from different people in different ranks, and there is just a touch of paranoia.

As a technique of film making, this style is used in "Rendition" to show that the United States is not an island. The implication is that the U.S. must realize that actions have consequences and that American citizens should understand that they are not the only ones with feelings and families. At the same time, it is clear that not everything can be neatly packed and classified as either black or white.

Apart from the storyline, the casting is one of the strongest points of this film. Take, for example, the stellar acting of Reese Witherspoon, who plays the part of Anwar's wife, Isabella. Meryl Streep, playing the part of the CIA agent Corrine Whitman, also produces a solid performance. Indeed, the impeccable acting contributed a great deal in making "Rendition" a good film.

The movie has no qualms about showing grim torture scenes. The question is: Does torture yield the desired results? Does it help to save lives? These are the questions that the audience must grapple with as they watch the movie, though hard answers may be hard to come by. Even the characters in "Rendition" cannot agree on the usefulness of this method of interrogation.

Some people were quick to label the movie anti-American. In fact, some people labeled the film thus without even watching it. Later discussions, however, have revealed that the labeling is flawed. There are many moral questions raised in the film, and the policies of the American government are discussed at length. This is not to say that the movie is completely neutral, because it is not. Though the story comes out against the practice of torture, it handles all the sensitive issues in a very thoughtful manner.

Every view, and by extension every person, is given a sympathetic hearing. The CIA agents, the senator who refuses to help in releasing the prisoner, Freeman, and the North African police chief are allowed to justify their actions instead of labeling them as villains without giving them a chance to justify their positions. Perhaps it is this treatment of different characters that have endeared "Rendition" to so many fans in different countries.

Rating: 3 out of 5