8 March 2008

Rendition, 2007

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 10:11 am

I was going to put up a couple screengrabs from this movie but for some reason in won’t play on VLC, which is my grab-technology of choice. I had two shots in mind: First is a scene where dissipated, conflicted and passive CIA operative Jake Gyllenhaal takes over from the third-world torture thug and actually starts throttling the renditioned prisoner himself. The other scene shows Jake talking on his cell phone, sitting on a balcony high above a vast Middle Eastern market square. It was during this scene that I recognized the location as Marrakech, a place I visited many years ago in my vagabond hippie days.

Briefly, the movie should have stuck with the main story of rendition, rather than weaving in some Romeo-and-Juliet tragedy, then unduly confusing the narrative with a time-twist gimmick like the one used in Babel. Even that wouldn’t have fixed the movie — here’s an excerpt from a review in Slate:

But forget the thin characters and showoffy temporal structure. Rendition‘s worst flaw is its political deck-stacking, with its willingness to win the viewer’s sympathy by showcasing the least defensible instance of extraordinary rendition imaginable… The movie appeals to our classism: Anwar’s rendition must be a scandal because, my lord, he’s an upper-middle-class professional! Who got a Ph.D. at NYU and married Reese Frigging Witherspoon! …If I were a filmmaker taking on the all-too-topical subject of state-condoned torture, I’d take pains to remember that the human rights of a homeless illegal immigrant—even one who might, in fact, be linked to acts of terror—were no less worth defending than those of Mr. Legally Blonde.



  1. fuck, i really need to watch more movies…or maybe just less blockbusters.


    Comment by dionysusstoned — 8 March 2008 @ 5:48 pm

  2. eish…it looks like that is a blockbuster. I give up


    Comment by dionysusstoned — 8 March 2008 @ 6:22 pm

  3. Don’t worry about it DS — a lot of the movies I talk about probably aren’t worth watching anyway. This one was made by a South African, Gavin Hood, and the story starts in Cape Town. Some Egyptian guy who lives in the States is on a business trip. The CIA discovers that a North African militant who killed an American agent had placed phone calls to this Egyptian guy, so they grab him up and send him off to a N. African jail. The locals torture the Egyptian, but eventually the local American CIA guy can’t stand it any more and helps the prisoner escape.

    The movie gives the impression that torturing prisoners is routine practice in the third world, that these people are intrinsically cruel, and that if we sensitive American could see this barbarism with our own eyes we would renounce it. Also, the depiction of the N. African militants is cartoonish: they carry machine guns, the mindlessly chant angry incomprehensible slogans, they blow themselves and their compatriots up even when skilled marksmanship would achieve the mission just as effectively. And the film never says anything about what the militants want or what powers they’re resisting and why.


    Comment by ktismatics — 8 March 2008 @ 6:31 pm

  4. JUST TELL ME HES OKAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    Comment by Seyfried — 9 March 2008 @ 8:57 pm

  5. Don’t worry Seyfried, the Americanized Egyptian businessman spends only a week in jail. Sure he gets slapped, humiliated, waterboarded, but when he gets out he releases his story to the press so presumably he attains at least some degree of revenge. He was also successful in selling his story to Hollywood, where it was developed into a major motion picture. Sadly, the film wasn’t a success, grossing less than $10 million at the US box office and earning lukewarm reviews. Reese and the baby are fine. I wish I could say the same for the N. African young lovers, whose tragic demise is presented as poetic justice, an inevitable consequence of third-world self-destructiveness.

    I suppose if this movie persuaded anyone in the audience that the American policy of rendition is a bad idea, then it will have served some useful purpose. But the film is liberal-humanistic rather than political: to resort to rendition is to sink to the inhuman level of our enemies. The extremists and the police in these third-world countries are equally sadistic, equally inhuman — we have no business messing with them at all. The best hope is for the Middle Easterners to join the American empire: learn English, get a good education, work in the global high-tech industry, move to America, bring your old-world mother with you, marry an American, have American children, sever all ties with one’s third-world past.

    I suppose as Americans we could take the film’s message one step further: don’t marry a foreigner, because their past always comes back to haunt them, and then you and your children get dragged into unpleasantness. It’s the return of the repressed: the dark foreigner seems to have been fully assimilated, but unexplained phone calls from foreign terrorists somehow find their way onto his cell phone, summoning him back to the quagmire of sadistic mindless violence that is his birthright. You can take the boy out of the third world, but you can’t take the third world out of the boy.


    Comment by ktismatics — 10 March 2008 @ 2:33 am

  6. Because Ktis took me too seriously: http://youtube.com/watch?v=ReTZyIhL9RQ&feature=related


    Comment by Seyfried — 11 March 2008 @ 9:55 am

  7. Reese Witherspoon didn’t have much to work with dramatically. If she could have been the Legally Blonde character who finally reaches the end of her ability to make things happen in Washington, that would have been better. But she has to work through a man, presumably a former love interest, and she’s also saddled with a full-term pregnancy that she has to haul around Capitol Hill. So she’s compromised in a stereotypically feminine way; all she’s allowed to do is screech hysterically — which she did quite well — before going into labor right there in the Congressional Office Building. The power behind the torture policy is another woman, Meryl Streep, who plays the cold hard sterile bitch of The Devil Wears Prada and elsewhere. Again with the stereotype.


    Comment by ktismatics — 12 March 2008 @ 10:05 am

  8. Ktis, your didacticism gets me every time.

    “Meryl Streep, who plays the cold hard sterile bitch of The Devil Wears Prada and elsewhere.”

    Well, thanks! Glad I didn’t have to look up this unknown Meryl Streep character up on IMDB! Tease, tease.

    You’ve pretty much killed any interest — not that it was high on the queue in the firt place — with these contrivances:

    “But she has to work through a man, presumably a former love interest, and she’s also saddled with a full-term pregnancy that she has to haul around Capitol Hill[…]before going into labor right there in the Congressional Office Building.”

    I’ll just check out Ghost World instead.


    Comment by Seyfried — 12 March 2008 @ 11:45 am

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