Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Rendition (2007)

"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 grand kids in London, so I'm glad I'm doing this job... and you're not."

National security is of prime importance for any nation, but should there be a limit on the ways to achieve it? The CIA's infamous extraordinary rendition practice makes me think of how the so-called safety measures in interest of a nation's security are not fool proof at all. Rendition (2007) is a movie based on a tale of a man who is a victim of CIA's suspicion and their practice.
It's a story of an Egyptian born Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally), a chemical engineer who lives in Chicago with his American wife Isabella (Reese Witherspoon) and their son, along with Anwar's mother. While at a conference in Cape Town he gets a missed call on his cell phone and his life is about to change after that. A CIA agent is killed somewhere in North Africa in a failed suicide bomb attempt which was targeted at a highly placed local police official Abasi Nawal (Yigal Naor). After getting information that El-Ibrahimi had a connection with the incident, the CIA detains him just as he lands in the US. Thereafter he is flown to an undisclosed location where he is inhumanly tortured by Nawal so that he would confess to being involved in the blast and provide them with more information.


Douglas Freeman: "This is my first torture."
This movie deals with a very strong subject which in many ways is perceived as the negative side of the US inteligence policies. However, a strong subject needs to be complemented by equally strong performances which this movie is short on in my opinion. CIA analyst Douglas Freeman (Jake Gylenhall) who observes El-Ibrahimi's torture finds himself highly under-prepared for the acts he has to witness. His performance lacks character and it doesn't attract much attention throughout the movie. Isabella is clueless about her husband's whereabouts and after failed attempts to get any information from the flight operators she starts to investigate on her own. Witherspoon delivers a decent performance playing a distraught wife who does everything possible to find her husband. As she succeeds in finding out the truth she doesn't manage to get through the head of the CIA Corrine Whitman (Meryl Streep) who refuses to help her. Streep like Gylenhall fails to impress and is rather two dimensional. Being such immensely talented actors their roles didn't really make the impact that they should have and I thought their abilities were not full utilized. There are however, some good performances by Abasi who is ruthless as a high ranked police officer dealing with criminals and a strict family man and Metwally who plays the role of a desperate man who has no clue how he landed on the CIA suspect list. The movie also shows the life of Abasi's daughter Fatima (Zineb Oukach) and her boyfriend Khalid (Moa Khouas) who fall in love and want to be together against all odds. Their vital connection to the entire plot unfolds only in the end.  

"We have a saying, 'Beat your woman every morning.
If you don't know why, she does.'"
This movie is an eye opener in many ways when it comes to the CIA's unreasonable tactics to counter terrorism. It shows how easy it was for them to just pick a suspect and transfer him to a different part of the world without notifying his family or giving him a proper interrogation first. The fact that the CIA didn't want to believe that El-Ibrahimi was clean even after screening his background is indicative of how much they trusted their information no matter if it was right or wrong. On the other hand, when it comes to the overall performances and screenplay, it lags behind. I expected more from it with such a powerful subject and an impressive cast but it disappointed. The subject line of this letter is much better than its contents.


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