“Rendition,” review by Susan Granger
Considering the incendiary subject matter the use of torture to extract information this political thriller should be a lot more compelling than it is.
The title refers to Americas highly controversial extraordinary rendition policy, granting the government the right to hold anyone suspected of terrorism without evidence or legal counsel; indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this month not to hear Khaled el-Masris case on the basis of state secrets.
Reese Witherspoon plays the pregnant wife of Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwaly), an Egyptian-born American chemical engineer on his way home to Chicago from a business conference in South Africa. Because theres a suspicion that he might be linked to the death of a top CIA official in a suicide bombing in an unnamed North African country, he is abducted to a secret detention facility near Marrakech, Morocco, where hes stripped naked and tortured. A rookie CIA analyst (Jake Gyllenhaal) is forced to observe the horrifying interrogation by a sadistic Arab (Israeli actor Igal Naor) whose daughter (Zineb Oukach), coincidentally, is secretly involved with the brother (Moa Khouas) of the leader of the radical Islamic group that her father is investigating.
Meanwhile, stateside, frantic Isabella heads to Washington D.C. where, conveniently, her old college beau (Peter Sarsgaard), coincidentally, works for a Senator (Alan Arkin). But this has little influence with the CIAs terrorism chief (Meryl Streep), hiding her iciness under a cloak of patriotism.
Kelly Sanes murky, confusingly structured script reeks of melodrama which to his credit Oscar-winning South African director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi) does his best to underplay while examining the repercussions of our war on terrorism. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Rendition is a troubling yet disappointing 6. Warning: the torture scenes are authentic and agonizing.