Referencing the term "extraordinary rendition," the title of this political drama centers on a policy developed during the Clinton years to extradite alleged terrorists to foreign prisons without any legal constraints. Gavin Hood, the Academy Award-winning director of Tsotsi, has fashioned his film as an incendiary response to the human and legal pitfalls of this practice. But like Crash and Babel, the movie becomes a complicated crisscrossing narrative that sets up predictable parallel stories, and Rendition ultimately turns into a banal melodrama about the human cost of the war on terror.
Anwar El-Ibrahim (Omar Metwally), an Egyptian-American businessman, is detained on his flight back from South Africa to Chicago for suspicion of complicity in a suicide bombing in an Arab country that killed an American CIA officer. His pregnant wife Isabella (Reese Witherspoon), given no official word of her husband even being on the flight, tries to find out what happened to him, armed with the flimsiest of evidence. Meanwhile, the dead agent's rookie partner Douglas (Jake Gyllenhaal) sits in on the interrogation of Anwar, where his idealism is challenged and he begins to question the policies he’s compelled to enforce.
A well-meaning drama that sets up easy moral equivalencies, in Rendition everybody comes to learn important life lessons. Hood, who knows what kind of movies win awards, crafts his tale so that every little detail falls neatly into place. As a result, the actors—especially Meryl Streep as a Condoleezza Rice caricature and Gyllenhaal doing his liberal dark night of the soul ("This is my first torture," he announces bleakly to Streep at one point)—are left with nothing to do but present soapbox platitudes.
Distributor: New Line
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon, Alan Arkin, Peter Sarsgaard, Omar Retwally, Igal Naor and Meryl Streep
Director: Gavin Hood
Screenwriter: Kelley Sane
Producers: Steve Golin and Marcus Viscidi
Rating: Not yet rated
Running time: 120 min.
Release date: October 19, 2007