Friday, 9 November 2007
When Hollywood thrust their latest terrorist-laden drama onto the big-screen last week, my eyes didn't exactly light up with joyous anticipation. A frequent barrage of films in recent years featuring a square-jawed hero named Bruce, waving the stars and stripes while saving the world, has left me somewhat cynical about the prospect of a new Middle-Eastern terrorist movie.
Rendition is a political thriller that centres on Isabella El-Ibrahimi (Reese Witherspoon), the American wife of Egyptian-born chemical engineer Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally), who disappears on a flight from South Africa to Washington. Isabella desperately tries to track her husband down, while a CIA analyst at a secret detention facility outside the U.S. is forced to question his assignment, as he becomes party to the man's unorthodox interrogation.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays the character Douglas Freeman, the CIA analyst who gets thrust into the world of interrogation following the death of a colleague. He answers to the hard-nosed CIA chief Corrine Whitman (Meryl Streep), who is quick to crush any queries that Freeman has about the legal evidence, or lack of it, that supports Anwar El-Ibrahimi's arrest. With a cameo from Academy-Award winner Alan Arkin adding to the heavyweight cast it appears to be the earliest bid for an Oscar this season.
The standard of performances and the complexity of the plot make it a strong contender. Meryl Streep was always bound to produce the goods, but Jake Gyllenhaal's transition from wacky teen star to Hollywood leading man was evident in his execution of this role. Reese Witherspoon (above), star of the Legally Blonde movies, was convincing as Isabella El-Ibrahimi, who deals with the difficulties of pregnancy whilst trying to track down her missing husband and father of her son.
I had expected a few annoying things to occur during the film. Firstly, Reese Witherspoon's gargantuan chin often clouds an entire film, and I sometimes find it hard to think of anything but the protruding feature. Secondly, I waited for Captain America to save the western world, but he must have had prior engagements, as the film actually painted a pretty poor picture of the American government's dealings in the Middle-East. Thirdly, the obvious and predictable plot I expected did not materialize, and the twist in the tail of the movie was as exciting as it was unforeseen.
Meryl Streep and Jake Gyllenhaal could not take full responsiblity for the film's success. In fact, not even Reese Witherspoon's chin could steal the limelight from the real star. The bravery shown by director Gavin Hood must be commended, as it's considered dangerous territory to cast America in a less than dazzling light in Hollywood. He managed to mix a complex plot with the terrorist fears that currently dominate the western world, as well as addressing the issue of possible unlawful interrogation processes associated with the American government.