"Rendition"; a film review by Gary Chew
Here we are nearly a quarter century after George Orwell's "1984," the dystopian novel to end all dystopian novels, and we find something new in the Orwellian lexicon: "Rendition."
Just as I was starting out in radio I used the word "rendition." It was a way to define a particular performance of an American Popular Song, either by, say, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day or Bing Crosby, etc.
The full usage of "rendition" today is "Extraordinary Rendition" and it has nothing to do with listening to an extraordinary singer crooning or rocking your favorite tune. Begun in the Clinton Administration, "Rendition" euphemistically defines what happens to suspects of crimes and terrorist acts who are hauled out of country to secret prisons without the benefit of judicial process. If that's not your basic Orwellian term, I don't know what is. Likely, Orwell would be 'amused' by its usage today and may be a bit miffed because he didn't come up with it in his chilling and classic story published in 1949.
Gavin Hood has directed a film called "Rendition." The screenplay is by Kelley Sane. The film takes the position that it's not okay---as Dr. Phil would say--- to take terror suspects out of country, minus the judicial system, to imprison, interrogate and possibly torture them for as long as deemed necessary.
Although maintaining a nation's safety is paramount, so too it is, in a democratic republic, that due process be maintained for persons charged with crimes. Most of us have been caught on the horns of this divisive dilemma for longer than we'd like, I venture.
"Rendition" is an important film, but it's not a superb one. Although it holds to the essential values of a liberal democracy, it also gives a look into the valued need for obtaining information for the safety of its citizens. The degrees to which direction a republic goes with this and how far are crucial.
To some extent, "Rendition" is derivative of "Syriana," "Babel" and "A Mighty Heart," but not as well-crafted. The cast is solid, except for the male lead played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Reese Witherspoon is genuine as the pregnant wife (see "A Mighty Heart") of the renditioned husband. Peter Sarsgaard is quite convincing as an aide to a fictitious U.S. Senator played so well by veteran, Alan Arkin. And how could Meryl Streep not play the role of a CIA chief well? After seeing her as an old rabbi and the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg in "Angels in America," it's so clear there's no role she couldn't do. Yigal Naor will get your attention as the prison chief and interrogator of the detained husband, played very convincingly by Omar Metwally.
Gyllenhaal is a good actor, but makes his character in "Rendition" too "soft" and not as sharply defined as do some others in the cast. His role as a CIA operative needs more bristle with a more well-defined change of intention about how to handle the case.
I must confess, I didn't watch every frame of this film. I closed my eyes during the scenes of torture and said to myself, "It's only a movie, it's only a movie."