RENDITION: Rights Vs Security
Director: Gavin Hood
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally), an Egyptian-born American chemical engineer, is ‘abducted’ by the CIA while on a flight home to Chicago from a conference in South Africa. He is taken to a country in the Middle East where he is tortured for information by police chief Abasi Fawal (Igal Naor) about a suicide bombing that killed dozens of people, including a CIA agent. It is learnt that Anwar’s cell phone received calls from a terrorist, or from someone with the same name.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, his heavily pregnant wife, Isabella (Reese Witherspoon), and young son wait in vain for his arrival. When he fails to show up, Isabella goes through a bureaucratic nightmare in Washington, seeking the help of her college friend Alan Smith (Peter Sarsgaard) to get to a CIA boss (Meryl Streep) for news of her husband.
Also involved in the questioning of Anwar is CIA analyst Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal) who soon becomes concerned that Anwar may be innocent – and that if you torture a man long enough, he may just tell you what you want to hear. However, expert torturer Abasi believes otherwise. “Just keep beating your wife, if you don’t know why, she does,” he says.
Abasi also has a personal problem on his hands. A subplot, told in flashbacks, reveals that his daughter Fatima (Zineb Oukach) is involved with a young terrorist named Khalid (Moa Khouas) and has run away from home…
HITS & MISSES: With three angles of the story running simultaneously, “Rendition” is a riveting drama that offers many surprises along the way. The most interesting is the insight into Khalid’s indoctrination into the terrorist group, complete with details on how a suicide bomb works. The torture scenes can be dreadful and dreary, keeping us wondering about Anwar’s claims of innocence, while we empathise with Isabella’s plight in trying to trace her hubby.
I am rather glad that the scripters have left the question of Anwar’s innocence open to debate – just as they have left open the controversy about ‘extraordinary renditions’ and Constitutional Rights versus National Security. This allows the audience to consider the merits of both sides in the light of increasing incidents of suicide bombings all over the world. After all, film-makers need not have to provide answers to moral questions such as these. It is enough that they provoke thought and provide entertainment.