Monday, June 9, 2008


Rendition (2007, Gavin Hood)

"Politics is personal".

Rendition by Gavin Hood is a story based around one of the most criticized tactics used by the Bush administration in their 'war on terror' - the removal of those suspected of terrorist activities to a location outside of the United States in order to avoid any of the remaining legal safeguards against extended detention and unlawful methods of interrogation. By setting this as a fictionalized account, we are meant to see the human face of those who are affected by this policy as well as those who employ it. The plot revolves around the detention of Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally) and the attempts of his wife (Reese Witherspoon) to find out what has happened to her husband when he fails to return from a trip to South Africa. She tries to enlist the aid of an old boyfriend (played by Peter Sarsgaard), who is now an aide to Senator Hawkins (Alan Arkin), who attempts to intervene on her behalf with the head of US Intelligence, Corinne Whitman (Meryl Streep) until it becomes politically inopportune to do so. Whitman represents those that believe that what they do is worth the price that others pay for it:

Corrine Whitman: Honey, this is nasty business. There are upwards of 7,000 people in central London alive tonight, because of information that we elicited just this way. So maybe you can put your head on your pillow and feel proud for saving one man while 7,000 perish, but I got grandkids in London, so I'm glad I'm doing this job... and you're not.

Ibrahimi has been removed to an unnamed Maghreb country where he is to be interrogated by the local head of police, Abasi Fawal (Yigal Naor), supervised by a CIA intelligence officer, Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaall). To add another twist to the plot, Fawal's daughter, Fatima (Zineb Oukach) is having a relationship with a young jihadist, Khalid (Moa Khouas) who is planning an assassination attempt on her father's life.

Freeman, played with almost a complete lack of emotion by Gyllenhaal, has had no experience with the interrogation of prisoners but is less than impressed with the results of Fawal's methods.

Douglas Freeman: In all the years you've been doing this, how often can you say that we've produced truly legitimate intelligence? Once? Twice? Ten times? Give me a statistic; give me a number. Give me a pie chart, I love pie charts. Anything, anything that outweighs the fact that if you torture one person you create ten, a hundred, a thousand new enemies.

Hood gets good performances out of his actors and for two-thirds of the movie, we are engrossed in a thriller but then it seems that the Hollywood suits stepped in and asked for some kind of resolution that would leave us suitably outraged but not too complicit in the use of torture. Though it is probably true that there have been many prisoners quietly released from detention, it is hard to see it happening in the way that is shown here. Which is a shame after what has come before in the movie.

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