“Rendition,” review by Susan Granger

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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 America’s 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-Masri’s 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 there’s 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 he’s 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 CIA’s terrorism chief (Meryl Streep), hiding her iciness under a cloak of patriotism.

Kelly Sane’s 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.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.