Movies: Rendition



One of the most interesting things about my visit to Australia over the summer was how a man was locked up for the entire duration of my stay without charge in Brisbane while I was there. This sort of drama wasn't on my mind when I strongly suggested that Rendition would make an excellent Sunday evening film, rather it was the fact Jake Gyllenhaal was in it.

The premise of the film is that an Egyptian national (and scientist) living in America and married to Reese Witherspoon is suspected of aiding terrorists, so on a flight back to Chicago from Cape Town disappears and is whisked off to an unnamed North African country to get interrogated. The aim of this extraordinary rendition is to try and find out what he knows about a series of suicide bombings that have recently become more sophisticated. Meanwhile, the lead interrogator is trying to find out more information about a failed suicide bombing mission where he was the target.

But to the main story, once Meryl Streep (who plays the CIA person responsible for ordering the renditions) throws the Egyptian on a plane to North Africa, that should be the last anyone ever hears about the guy as he is deleted from the system and there is no record of him being on board... Except for the fact that Reese checks his credit card statement online and shows that he purchased duty free on the flight. If ever there was a compelling reason to buy that extra Mont Blanc pen from the in-flight duty free cart, it was there on screen tonight.

Once in North Africa, Jake Gyllenhaal's character enters the frame as the CIA agent who observes the interrogations. Occasionally he interrupts the water boarding or the shock treatment, but for most of the time he just watches and then goes to the bar afterwards and has a line of shots, or smoking something rather strong and herbal... He reminded me of the Lloyd Bridges character in Airplane! who kept saying "he picked the wrong week to give up drinking/smoking/sniffing glue".

With all this in mind, the film has not received great reviews, and the dialogue and performances at times is unintentionally amusing considering the subject matter. Still the shades of grey and the way the film is put together give quite a watchable look at the war on terror. Watching it with a lapsed human rights lawyer made for interesting post-film conversation, but in a way the most intriguing part of extraordinary rendition is that it happens, and that people don't really care... And I thought the film brought out that indifference quite well...

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