Jan 7, 2011

[Movies] Rendition (2007)

Rendition (2007)I don't often watch conventional contemporary dramas. It's not that I have anything against those sorts of movies - I'm just more naturally drawn to science fiction stuff and so when given the choice, that wins over the other.

But there are a lot of good stories to be told as set in the modern world - the ones that I tend to enjoy often have heavy political flavoring to them. Thus I end up with a lot of military stories, political dramas and those sorts of things. I have the occasional romance or maybe a period film juxtaposed against the current setting but that's about it.

I watched this movie since (1) my partner said it was pretty good and (2) it stars Jake Gyllenhaal. And do we really need a reason beyond Jake being in it? LOL

Rendition is a 2007 drama directed by Gavin Hood. The story was somewhat inspired by the real-life story of Khalid El-Masri who was mistaken for Khalid Al-Masri.

INDIO, CA - APRIL 18:  Actors Jake Gyllenhaal ...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeDouglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a CIA analyst who's briefing a fellow agent when a suicide bomber hits a public square. Many are killed or injured including William Dixon (David Fabrizio) and Douglas ends up being assigned to observe the interrogation of a possible suspect in the attack. The suspect is Egyptian-born Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally), a chemical engineer who is intercepted on his way home to his pregnant wife Isabella (Reese Witherspoon) and son in Chicago. It is a CIA practice known as extraordinary rendition where possible terrorists are detained and sent to foreign countries for interrogation. The CIA believes that Anwar is somehow involved with the bombers given phone calls that were traced to his phone.

In a somewhat parallel story, the daughter of the interrogator Abasi Gawal (Yigar Naor), Fatima (Zineb Oukach) is shown to have run away from home with her boyfriend Khalid (Moa Khouas). A lot of these scenes are shown without subtitles (unless you deliberately turn them on), thus making you need to up the ante of your deductive reasoning to figure out what's going on. But the resulting storyline is equally impressive and it ultimately ties in with the rest of the main plot of the movie in a dramatically appropriate way.

It took me a while to get fully invested in the movie. Sure, Jake had some early shirtless shots that help pique the interest but the story takes time to really pull you in. But then that's how the movie works - you are going to follow at least three main plot threads in order to get to the end. You'll have Douglas and Abasi interrogating Anwar. You'll have Isabella back in the US trying to figure out what happened to her husband with the help of her friend Alan Smith (Peter Sarsgaard), who is an aide to a senator. And you have the two young lovers in the unknown North African nation where all this is set. So yeah, these are three separate stories of a good amount of complexity that need time to develop sufficiently.

Acting was stellar all around and one has to cite the small role played rather powerfully by the ever amazing Meryl Streep. She plays the role of Corrine Whitman (Meryl Streep), who is Douglas' superior and the one who ordered the rendition of Anwar. I always love the way she brings characters to life in many different ways - a true reinvention of self every time around. Reese was also quit good as the wife stuck in the dark and hoping for answers despite the system seemingly working against her.

The whole aspect of the large part of the movie being in a different language was quite striking as well. I'm not officially aware if the movie was shown in theaters without subtitles, but if that were the case it's an awesome way to tell the story. Sure, having the translations would allow one to explicitly know the story all throughout but not knowing is even more intriguing and adds an additional layer of mystery and almost mystique to the whole thing. Thus it deserves at least two watchings - one without subtitles and a second time with to see if it confirms everything you understood the first time around.

Rendition is a powerful movie with a mission - another revelation of the darkness of the global war against terrorism. It gets 4 attempts by Jake to look mean and tough out of a possible 5.

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