Rendition: strong cast provide excellent critique of torture benefits

Posted on August 19, 2010



Movie Poster

Rendition does not pull any punches while tackling a complex topic

USA, 2007

Directed by: Gavin Hood


Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde, Walk the Line) – Isabella Fields El-Ibrahimi

Meryl Streep (Sophie’s Choice, Mamma Mia!)– Corrine Whitman

Peter Sarsgaard (Shattered Glass, Flightplan) – Alan Smith

Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, Zodiac) – Douglas Freeman

Omar Metwally (Munich) – Anwar El Ibrahimi

Alan Alda (Little Miss Sunshine) – Senator Hawkins

Yigal Naor (Munich, Green Zone)  – Abasi Fawal

Length: 122 mins

Gross: $27,038,732


“How would you feel if your loved one disappeared on their way home? What would you do to find them when every avenue of investigation is closed off by national security fears?

These are the problems facing heavily pregnant, all-American, Isabella Fields El-Ibrahimi (Witherspoon), whose husband Anwar (Metwally) disappears on his way back from a conference in Johannesburg.

During Anwar’s flight we see that a bomb goes off in a crowded square, somewhere in North Africa. A CIA agent is killed, causing the USA to seek retribution. They link Anwar, who has a chemical engineering background having studied in America, to the bombings, and give the green light to take him out the country for ‘extraordinary rendition’.

Man at airport

On arrival on US soil El-Ibrahimi is accosted by two cops

CIA analyst, Douglas Freeman (Gyllenhaal), a Princeton economics graduate, more comfortable with a pie chart than a pistol is given the task of getting information out of this seemingly innocent man.

He exploits high ranking police official Abasi Fawal, the apparent target of the assassination attempt and whose own daughter has disappeared with a boyfriend (a story which runs parallel to the main plot.)

Is Anwar, a family man who has lived in the States for a number of decades, yet who has an apparent link to the man behind the bombing, implicated in the suicide attack?

Burnip’s Opinion:

This movie is a damning critique of what is now considered one of the most reprehensible aspects of the post 9/11 American government’s domestic anti-terror policy. Award winning director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi), leads a star studded cast who all play their roles incredibly strongly. Particular mention has to go to Metwally who performs exceptionally in a very tricky role.

Witherspoon shows that she has more to her acting ensemble than just being blonde, and not particularly funny – normally I find her excruciating to watch, yet she does not have this effect on me in this film.

The film becomes slightly confusing at one point where the main and sub plots begin to converge, however a quick double take and you are back on track.

If you believe torture can elicit useful results, then this is probably not the film for you, as its political leanings are clear. The naive but keen Gyllanhaal even draws on Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice to highlight his misgivings to the process, “I fear you speak upon the rack, Where men enforced do speak anything.”

The film, could perhaps do better exploring the characters in greater depth, choosing in parts to skim over the surface, but this doesn’t detract from the film – unless you are set on learning what the characters favourite meal is, or whether they like their eggs sunny-side up.

A complex topic, but handled well by all involved, this pseudo documentary, based on a real life case, is not overly gruesome, but does not pull any punches either.

Burnip Rating: 7.5/10

Posted in: DVD Review, I Burnip