Directed by Gavin Hood
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon, Omar Metwally
Rendition is about the post-9/11 American torture practices and shocks the audience into facing the truth of what their fear created, both home and abroad. Rendition made me ashamed to be associated, even by nationality, to those people who voted for, or support the Patriot Act.
A terrorist bombing rips through a crowded market street in the morning in an attempt to kill a middle-eastern official Igal Noar (Abasi Fawal). They miss the official, but it sets in motion a series of events which leads to Anwar El-Ibrahimi being kidnapped and taken to be tortured. Personally invested and morally conflicted, CIA analyist Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is brought in to observe the “extreme interrogation techniques” approved by Corinne Whitman (Meryl Streep) and inflicted upon the detainee, who may have information on the bombing. Anwar’s wife, Isabella (Reese Witherspoon), sets out on a mission to find her husband by contacting her old friend, Alan Smith (Peter Sarsgaard), now Senator Hawkins’s (Alan Arkin) personal aid. While Igal Noar attempts to deal with the terrorists in his country, his daughter Fatima (Zineb Qukach) starts to slip into the hands of her shady boyfriend, Khalid El-Emin (Mohammed Khquas).
The writing in Rendition takes what seems to the average American, an ethically gray area, and starts to separate the colors into a story far more black and white. Rendition asks and attempts to answer the question: What happens when the most powerful people in the world become people of convenient principle? Kelley Sane, the writer of this powerful script, asks the question so boldly and without reservation, the audience is required to face the truth of the answer.
Bringing the face to the question is Omar Metwally, as Anwar El-Ibrahimi, the kidnapped “enemy combatant” subjected to torture. Torture is difficult to play without being melodramatic because its nature is over the top of what is reasonable. Metwally embodies the sadness and hopelessness of a torture victim and does it with no extraneous moaning or grunting. Every painful gesture and expression is perfectly crafted in the moment. Look toward him for one of the most powerful performances in Rendition.
The Romeo and Juliet-esque couple, Fatima and Khalid, are two of the most riveting characters in the movie. Qukach wraps Fatima in a cloak of, maybe willful, naive innocence. Her bushytailed love for Khalid is sweet and unabashed. Khalid’s love is far more complicated. Khquas winds Khalid tighter and squeezes his heart like a vice. Khalid is the most complex character in the story and Khquas proves he can handle the immense weight of his character’s complexities.
Jake Gyllenhaal, Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Alan Arkin, Peter Sarsgaard, and Abasi Fawal each lend their phenomenal talents to Rendition. Creepy, scary, frightening, cowardly, vulnerable, and monstrous, every actor adds their own life and personality to each character.
As fascinating as the acting is, the cinematography is a triumph of its own. Dion Beebe uses light and lines to create mood and ambiance that conveys unspoken feeling and ideas. The cinematography sends messages that the audience might not even know they’ve received. There is endless attention to detail, composition, and framing which polishes the movie and makes it glisten.
When the acting, the writing, and the cinematography goes right, it is the director who should be praised. Gavin Hood, the director of Rendition, created a film whose themes, performances, and vision make people discuss what they really believe and to face the consequences of those beliefs.
Rendition will leave you wanting to talk about policies, war, and what torture does to the people being tortured. I, for one, think we could use the discussion.