Rendition - DVD Review




Rendition’s arrival on cinema screens in October signified the start of the ‘new-gulf’ movement of film making with Lions for Lambs following soon afterwards coupled with the more recent releases of In The Valley of Elah and Redacted to name only a few. Its release on DVD this month gives the opportunity to re-evaluate it in light of the more recent films which deal with the conflict to a more specific extent.

Perhaps surprisingly Gavin Hood’s socio-political take on the post 9/11 practice of extraditing terror suspects without completing the necessary paper-work and placing them on ‘rendition’ flights holds up rather well. It helps that the practice has received inflated media coverage recently with the British government admitting American rendition flights were allowed to land on our soil, en-route to their final destination. However, eventually Hood suffers from the same problems Paul Haggis encounters in ‘Elah’, struggling to form a moral conclusion and apply the story he wants to tell to the conflict it relates to.

It does not help Hood’s cause that he comes dangerously close to wasting some genuinely fantastic acting. Jake Gyllenhaal shows he is ready to carry a big-budget blockbuster with a unique performance as reluctant C.I.A agent Douglas Freeman. It must have been tempting for Gyllenhaal to stick to the tried and tested ‘troubled hero’ model but instead he shows Douglas as readily adaptable to the situations he unfortunately finds himself faced with. Eventually his character comes across as entirely believable, after all, shouldn’t a fully trained C.I.A agent on assignment in Northern Africa know exactly what to do in explosive situations?

Supporting turns from Peter Sarsgaard and Alan Arkin are also impressive, Sarsgaard in particular once again showing he can adapt to a plethora of different characters in different films. Most impressive of all is Yigal Naor as Douglas’ contact within Tunisia. His heavyweight performance eats up the screen on a consistent basis and adds depth to Gyllenhaal’s character whenever they share screen-time. However, Hood’s problem is trying to tie all of these characters together in a believable and satisfying manner, something which he ultimately fails at.

Meryl Streep is slowly slipping into comfortable mediocrity within Hollywood, playing the emotionally distanced character in a power suit and she does the same here relying instead on J K Simmons to have most of the direct contact with Douglas. Similarly the other female lead, Reese Witherspoon, is given the role of distressed wife and little else to work with. Perhaps some depth is attempted here by making her pregnant at the same time but this just feels like a forced and unnecessary bid for the audience’s sympathy. Running alongside these western stories is the tale of Fatima (Zined Oukach) and her lover Khalid (Moa Khouas) a further thread which, despite it being neatly tied up, serves only to distract from the story at hand.

Despite best attempts from everybody involved there is simply too much here for every character to be developed to an extent where an audience can be satisfied by the film in its entirety. Gyllenhaal and Streep share no screen time and talk once, Sarsgaard’s investigation fails to contact Gyllenhaal despite his apparent willingness to talk and again the actors share zero screen time. The film clocks in at just two hours but on this evidence there is plenty of deleted material around somewhere (although none makes it onto the disk) which could of contributed to a really successful ensemble piece. As it is however, Hood doesn’t give enough time to any of his characters and we are left as emotionally detached as Meryl Streep come the conclusion.


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