In a project which feels like it was hastily conceived at an Academy Awards afterparty, Oscar-winner Gavin Tsotsi Hood marshals a cast of worthy talent in the shape of Reese Witherspoon, Jake Gyllenhaal and Meryl Streep for an expansive but small-minded exploration of the modern phenomenon of ‘extraordinary rendition’.
Where Angelina Jolie lent passion and dignity to her part in A Mighty Heart, Witherspoon offers only perky vacuity as Isabella, a pregnant mother whose Egyptian husband is spirited away by US authorities in the aftermath of a North African marketplace bomb. The explosion and the bloody death of a colleague are witnessed by CIA analyst Douglas (Gyllenhaal), who is initially complicit in the suspect’s rendition, but whose growing disquiet about the brutal interrogation techniques used by local authorities is further fuelled by his suspicions about the motives of a shifty senator (Streep).
While burdened with good intentions, Gavin Hood’s first Hollywood film has too many extraneous stories and not enough focus on any kind of political context to reveal anything meaningful about its subject. Even worse, Kelley Sane’s script deliberately muddles the issues to create the impression that torturing suspects overzealously as part of the War on Terror is the regular practice of vengeful foreigners, and that it’s only by speaking out that brave Americans can stop such atrocities taking place. Put simply, Rendition is a less-than-extraordinary apologia for the recent unjustifiable excesses of US foreign policy.
General release from Fri 19 Oct.