Rousing Rendition: What if someone you loved....just disappeared? That's the tagline for the movie Rendition, director Gavin Hood's (Tsotsi) new political thriller. The film stars Reese Witherspoon as Isabella Fields El-Ibrahimi, a mother who is pregnant with her second child and whose Egyptian born, chemical engineering husband, Anwar (Omar Metwally) is suddenly abducted from an airport on his way back from South Africa to the US. This film gives a startling glimpse into extraordinary rendition, which is the detaining and transferrence of a suspected terrorist to a country in which torture is allowed. This movie should have come out almost two years ago when news of Abu Ghraib was still fresh in the minds of the American people.
At any rate, when Isabella discovers her husband has not arrived on the expected flight, she decides to figure out what happened. This leads her to an old friend and lover, Alan Smith (played by Peter Sarsgaard), an aide to a US senator. Once he discovers the scope of what's going on, he advises Isabella to consult a lawyer.
Rounding out the lead cast is CIA operative, Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal) who sits in on the interrogation of Anwar. The film is told in episodic vignettes as we continue to glimpse each character and their story and how they are connected to the big picture. We are even treated to a bit of narrative trickery which does work but you must be paying attention.
Most of the cast is ho-hum; Witherspoon does her best but she's miscast. Gyllenhaal does most of his acting with his eyes and really shows his limited range. Alan Arkin, who plays a senator is fine and Sarsgaard is okay but they aren't the ones that stand out. There are two in this film; Abasi Fawal (played by Middle Eastern actor Yigal Naor), who leads the interrogation of Anwar and whose daughter may or may not be involved in one of the plots to assassinate him and the other is that perennial fav Meryl Streep who plays an anti-terrorism chief. Streep is cold and calculating and even though hers is a supporting role she sets each scene she's in on fire. I just wish her one scene with Witherspoon had been juicier; that would have been a bonus.
This film is horrifyingly realistic and, sadly, a bit too late for people to really care too much. See it because it matters but expect to be disappointed.
Bags of popcorn (out of 5): 2.75