Directed by: Gavin Hood
Premise: An Egyptian-American (Omar Metwally) is detained by the CIA and sent overseas for an interrogation that includes torture techniques. Meanwhile, his wife (Reese Witherspoon) pulls contacts in Washington D.C. to try and discover what happened to her husband.
What Works: The performances in Rendition are very good, namely by Reese Witherspoon and Omar Metwally as the husband and wife. The two sell the human factor of the film and the plight of their well being gives the film a lot of its weight.
What Doesn’t: Rendition features a lot of narrative strands that could lead to something but don’t. The film takes on an important and timely subject but the film has nothing in it that penetrates those subjects in more than a superficial way. As a result, the film feels more like exploitation of news headlines than a commentary or dramatization of the story behind those headlines. Meryl Streep’s CIA official embodies this superficiality. While Streep is always solid playing an ice queen, the film boxes her into a one-dimensional role and does not seriously entertain her reasons for engaging in these interrogation techniques in the first place. Similarly, Jake Gyllenhaal plays a newbie CIA analyst and he is also wasted in the film. It’s not entirely Gyllenhaal’s fault; the part is underwritten and it does not give him much to do except stand around and watch the torture. The film has a twist ending that is confusing, and on reflection, it’s also rather annoying because it betrays the assumptions that the audience has through the duration of the film and ultimately does not change anything.
Bottom Line: Rendition is an underwhelming film. Despite a fine performance by Reese Witherspoon, the film leaves too many unanswered questions and does not really engage its subject.
Episode: N/A (November 4, 2007)