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Overall Rating
2.38

Awesome: 3.45%
Worth A Look: 10.34%
Average34.48%
Pretty Bad: 24.14%
Total Crap: 27.59%

3 reviews, 11 user ratings


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Rendition
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by Erik Childress

"Not Even Enough Balls For An Electrode"
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The torture debate is a fascinating one; hot button for both the politicians and those who campaign for the rights of a human being. No one ever wants to be on the side of torture and other than juxtaposing their own reality with the unwitting participants of films like Saw and Hostel, the great percentage of humankind will never have to face it – at least not of the government-sponsored sort. They have a better shot at being on the receiving end of a terrorist plot our law enforcers didn’t get the information on in time. C’est la vie though, it makes for great theater as does any debate where both sides can make their points without sounding irrational or taking the common sense of their listeners for granted. Gavin Hood’s Rendition wants to play that middle road by staring at the cake on one side and chowing it down on the other while presenting simplicity as complexity and leaving us no wiser or outraged upon exit.

Plot is kicked into action when a terrorist bombing aimed at African law enforcer, Abasi Fawal (Igal Naor) goes off in a town square. The CIA takes an interest since one of the many casualties is actually a ranking agent caught in a traffic jam in the area. Also in the car is analyst Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is assigned to lead the investigation. The name that comes up is that of Egyptian-American businessman, Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally) who is detained under the Kafkaesque U.S. policy of “extraordinary rendition” which can move suspected terrorists to foreign countries without reprisal from the law. Corrine Whitman (Meryl Streep) the CIA’s terrorism unit head approves the action all from her breakfast nook and goes about her day.

When Anwar isn’t on the return plane from his trip, his pregnant wife Isabella (Reese Witherspoon) is naturally concerned. Luckily her old college flame, Alan Smith (Peter Sarsgaard) works in the office of Senator Hawkins (Alan Arkin) and tries to get some answers through more official channels who aren’t talking. Meanwhile, back in Africa, Anwar is stripped, beaten, waterlogged and electrified all while denying any knowledge to the explosion and its links. Douglas stands in the background horrified by the methods of Fawal, who is adamant about the procedures being necessary to extract the answers.

The problem with crafting a story around such a right-and-wrong split of a topic is that an inability to commit to a specific stance is going to leave us without any winners. Either Anwar is involved with the bombing or he isn’t. If he is, it helps support the argument for torture as a necessary evil. If he isn’t, then the shift in his behavior during questioning is nothing more than a ploy that doesn’t consider the greater picture involved. Particularly when there’s a difference between a suspect saying anything to save his skin and misleading the interrogators with overtly specific information that no “innocent” man would reveal. Some would say that gray area is the only way to approach the issue but by jerking around an audience both ways through artificial plot twists, not only are you pandering to both the bloodlust and Kumbaya sensibilities but you are needlessly complicating a matter that needs to be understood to un-plant our firmly lodged crotches from the top of the fence.

I’m all for a good debate, but one that doesn’t take intellectuality for granted and instead substitutes soundbite logic for those who need approval from an applause sign to string their hands together. When Sarsgaard gets to confront Streep at a party he throws out an obligatory shot about not finding her methods written into the constitution and that’s the high point of Kelley Sane’s script which is about as fiery as an extinguished sparkler. It’s balance of the revolving story strands between Gyllenhaal’s silent horror and Witherspoon’s even quieter search for the father of her children is thrown completely out of whack by the inclusion of another love story occurring between Fawal’s daughter (Zineb Oukach) and a boy (Moa Khouas) who holds his own family connection to a radical Allah group. The manner is which this relationship reveals its purpose to the grander scheme of things is such a gimmicky distraction that provides no context to any of the various tragedies on screen (and keeps the blame more locally than globally) that it wouldn’t be poor form to scream out “fire” in your local theater – either to call out its fakery or provide your own smoke and mirrors to bolt before its epilogue.

None of the actors have a chance to develop their characters here; each of them mere props on the stage of what feels more like a liberal fundraiser than a cinematic potboiler. When Gyllenhaal is at last given a moment to give into something primal, Hood allows no time for him to explore his reaction and instead turns him into a savior despite facts that demand a few more questions and at least a slap or two on general principle. In her first major role since deservedly winning the Oscar for Walk the Line, no one is wasted more than Witherspoon who literally has to waddle through the role with none of the desperation that drove Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart. Finally given a chance for confrontation, poor Reese sounds like a bratty child in an adult world which sums up Rendition in a nutshell. By credits roll we’re no wiser on either side of the issue and if you’re going to lecture us on the evils of torture, you better not make a film where in the end we feel there’s more information to be discovered.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=16352&reviewer=198
originally posted: 10/19/07 14:00:00
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/12/09 mr.mike War is a very messy business.... 4 stars
4/03/09 henry8 the reality of this film's depiction is spot on! 5 stars
8/02/08 daveyt well, I enjoyed it so there! 4 stars
3/12/08 r jeffries i wasnt even sure in the end whether he was innoncent... lame 1 stars
3/11/08 Matt American machinations. Arabs blowing things up. The moral gets lost somewhere. 3 stars
3/03/08 Corey Birchmore Great Actors not utilized 3 stars
3/01/08 action movie fan decent story of torute and incarceration of suspected terrorist 3 stars
12/13/07 William Goss Half-hearted relevance, chronological cleverness only reinforces how hollow it all is. 3 stars
10/26/07 mr. film Streep was a disgrace. All she does is take her glasses off. Then put them on. Then repeat. 1 stars
10/20/07 Obi Wan Jake G was on the money and saves the movie! 4 stars
10/20/07 Private One dimensional, cliche, trite but watchable. Subject deserves better. 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  19-Oct-2007 (R)
  DVD: 19-Feb-2008

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Gavin Hood

Written by
  Kelley Sane

Cast
  Reese Witherspoon
  Jake Gyllenhaal
  Meryl Streep
  Alan Arkin
  Peter Sarsgaard
  J.K. Simmons



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