Movie Review: “Rendition” (2007)

By Jason

March 31, 2008 Movies Reviews No comments


The Essentials

Title: Rendition (official site)
Directed by Gavin Hood
Written by Kelley Sane
Running Time: 2 hrs. 2 min.
Release Date: October 19th, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for torture/violence and language.

The Plot of “Rendition”

When an Egyptian terrorism suspect “disappears” on a flight from Africa to Washington DC, his American wife and a CIA analyst find themselves caught up in a struggle to secure his release from a secret detention facility somewhere outside the US.

The Story of “Rendition”

After a terrorist bombing kills an American envoy in a foreign country. An investigation leads to an Egyptian who has been living in the United States for years and who is married to an American. He is apprehended just as he’s about to return home from a business trip. The U.S. sends him to the country where the incident occurs for interrogation which includes torture. An American CIA analyst who has just become an operative and is on his first real field mission observes the interrogation and is at odds whether to keep it going or to stop it because he doesn’t agree with the methods being used to gather information from the suspect. In the meantime, the man’s wife uses her contacts and tenacity to attempt to find out what happened to her husband despite being pregnant. Unfortunately, the CIA does not want to help her and refuses to give her any information.

The Review of “Rendition”

Rendition PosterI wish there were more to say about this film than what is written in the “Story” section of this article. Unfortunately, there really isn’t. The synopsis of this film accurately tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the movie and about what you’re going to get when you watch it.

Rendition is full of great performances as you might expect from a film starring so many prestigious actors. Unfortunately, none of the great performances come from Jake Gyllenhaal who is primarily the heart and soul of this picture. Gyllenhaal appears to be sleep walking through half the picture and fully enveloped in dream land the other half. I’ve seen more believable emotion from muppets.

With the lead actor seemingly mentally and emotionally MIA during most of the picture the onus is on the rest of the cast and the script to carry the film. Unfortunately, the cast can only do so much with a mediocre screenplay. The plot is formulaic and predictable with the only exciting change being in the way the film was organized. You’ll know what I’m talking about if you’ve seen it (and I don’t want to ruin it for those who haven’t), but the screenwriter or the director or the editors (not sure who thought this one up) pulled a nice trick out of their bag when putting the film together that really made me do a double take. It’s a shame it was one of the few moments in the film that was truly enjoyable.

The film wasn’t nearly as preachy as I feared it would be which is good. At the same time, I didn’t find myself compelled to feel sympathy for the abducted Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally) either. Here’s a man who’s not a citizen of the United States who has contacts with people in a country that has terrorist ties and he doesn’t want to talk about it. I mean, they pick this guy up and start asking him questions and he suddenly can’t remember anything that might be important – but he loves America – been here 20 years or something. I don’t know about anyone else, but if the CIA starts asking me questions about people who might be terrorists I’m giving them names and email addresses and phone numbers and physical descriptions. I’ll tell them where they like to eat and hang out and what part of their bodies are ticklish. Not Anwar. He can’t remember anything.

The torture scenes didn’t really elicit sympathy either. The whole time I was thinking that it didn’t really look that bad. I kept wondering if I could stand those tortures – as they were depicted in the film. I think I could. If this is the stuff we’re doing that people are using to say that we torture our prisoners…well, case closed – we’re not.

The look and feel of the film was first class, but it wasn’t enough to make up for everything else. Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, Alan Arkin, Peter Sarsgaard, and a bunch of others who spoke mostly in a foreign language did their best to maintain the momentum of the film but every time it seemed the action was just about to get going and the story was just about to take off the movie would hit a long period of dialog (again, mostly in a foreign language) where they attempted to explain everything to us. It grew burdensome after a while

By the time the film ends with the ending you knew would come all along you no longer really care about the El-Ibrahimis (if you ever did) and you certainly don’t care about Douglas Freeman, Gyllenhaal’s character.

Watch “Rendition” If…

You’ve ever been illegally abducted by the CIA and “questioned” about your involvement with alleged terrorists…just to see if your tortures were worse than the ones depicted in this movie.

Rating: 3.0/10