Emotionally riveting and politically relevant, Rendition is a daring film that isn’t afraid to ask tough questions. With an all-star cast that includes Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon and Meryl Streep and Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal, Rendition paints a vast yet intimate canvas of a world in crisis and a family in peril.
Thematically, the film bears some resemblance to Syriana and Bourne Identity, as it’s both a cautionary tale and a taut political thriller. Rendition walks a fine line between interrogation and torture, between working for the greater good in a post 9/11 world and violating basic codes of decency–between fighting terrorism and becoming a terrorist.
The film’s protagonist is Anwar El-Ibraim, a Canadian scientist of Egyptian decent. Caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, he is about to find out what happens when that line is crossed. Anwar is anxious to get home and see his family after a business trip in Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately, his homecoming is delayed.
Thousands of miles away, in Cairo, a suicide bomb has just rocked the heavily populated Sadat Plaza. Thirty-six are dead, one an American. Rashid Silime, a well-known terrorist and head of the El-Hazim Brigage, a Hezbollah splinter cell, has claimed responsibility. Restitution is needed. Enters Anwar, who happens to be a biochemist with bomb-making experience and family ties to Egypt.
Anwar boarded his plane in Rio as a businessman; he lands in New York a terrorist. As he gets off the plane, Anwar is bound, hooded and taken away. In a few hours he finds himself naked and alone in a barren cell in Cairo. His troubles are just beginning. Anwar is the subject of “Extraordinary Rendition,” a program that authorizes the US government to seize and transfer terrorism suspects to their countries of origin, where they can be “interrogated” without legal protections or restraints.
To the outside world there is no trace of Anwar. The airline claims he was never on the plane from Rio, immigration has no record of his arrival in the U.S. No one seems to know where he is; no one is talking. In desperation, his wife (Reese Withersoon) turns to the only man she can trust, Alan Smith (Peter Sarsgaard), an old friend and Washington insider. Jointly they try to piece together what has happened to her husband.
On the other side of the world, there are people who know exactly what is happening to Anwar. One of them is Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal), a National Security Agent stationed in Cairo, who has just been assigned to oversee Anwar’s rendition. Unlike the rest of his colleagues, however, Douglas isn’t convinced that the man had anything do with horrific bombing, nor is he convinced Anwar will survive what is turning into a brutal interrogation.
Driven by conflicting forces of duty and conscience, loyalty and morality, Douglas must ultimately make a choice, a choice that propels Rendition to its disturbing and inevitable conclusion.
Written by Kelley Sane, Rendition is directed by Gavin Hood, who won the Best Foreign-Language Oscar for Tsotsi. It stars Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, Legally Blonde), Oscar winner Meryl Streep (Devil Wears Prada, Adaptation), Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain, Jarhead), and Peter Sarsgaard (Jarhead, Flightplan).
New Line plans to release Rendition in late fall/early winter.