Rendition Movie Poster Image

Rendition

(i)

 

Over-simplified drama takes hard look at torture.
  • Review Date: February 18, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 121 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Both "terrorists" and U.S. agents use underhanded tactics; parents and children are at odds.

Violence

Brutal violence throughout, including torture, as well as explosions in crowded streets. An early scene shows a suicide bombing in North Africa in which a CIA agent dies in Douglas' lap (blood everywhere). Anwar is tortured repeatedly -- he's tied to a chair, beaten, choked, dragged, kicked, and electrified. Photos of martyrs show maimed bodies. In a tense, lengthy scene, Fatima runs to stop Khalid's suicide mission, with pounding percussion and fast cutting. A bombing near the end is catastrophic, killing multiple people and leaving others traumatized and bloody.

Sex

Khalid and Fatima kiss a couple of times. Anwar appears naked in several scenes, usually shadowed; his nakedness (which is non-sexual) is a sign of his vulnerability (his body is bloodied and bruised from torture).

Language

Several uses of "f--k," plus occasional other profanity, like "hell," "son of a bitch," and "goddammit."

Consumerism

Sony TV, Washington Post.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Several characters smoke cigarettes and cigars. Douglas drinks hard liquor to show despair; he also goes to a bar where he smokes an opium-like drug from a water pipe. Douglas appears drunk and upset.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this heavy drama isn't for kids, even though it stars tween/teen favorites Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal. Not only does it deal with the many complicated political and cultural issues surrounding torture, but the dialogue -- which is focused on policy and intrigue -- will likely bore younger viewers. There's also plenty of violence, including explosions, shooting, and, yes, torture (there are difficult images of the victim's pain and the aggressor's visceral calculations). The torture victim appears naked in a small, dank cell, mostly in shadow. Other scenes show upset victims and negotiators; particularly wrenching is a young wife's anguished pleading that a CIA officer answer questions about her missing husband. Language includes some uses of "f--k" and other minor profanity.

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What's the story?

In the politically-charged RENDITION, CIA caseworker Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is torn between his ambition and idealism--he knows that the CIA acts illicitly to achieve great goals, but he still believes he can behave honorably. After he witnesses a colleague's bloody suicide bombing death, Douglas is asked to oversee the interrogation of a suspect. Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally) appears to be an Egyptian-born engineer and nothing more, causing Douglas to wonder about his own pursuit of the truth at all costs. Back in D.C., Freeman confesses to boss Corinne (Meryl Streep) that he's not sure if his "first torture" is going well. Camille insists repeatedly that the U.S. doesn't torture. Technically, this is true, for Anwar's primary abuser is an Egyptian, Abasi Fawel (Igal Naor). Anwar is eventually sent to Abasi's secret prison, where he continues to claim his innocence. Anwar's wife Isabella (Reese Witherspoon) heads to D.C. to seek help from ex-boyfriend and senator's aide, Alan (Peter Sarsgaard). Alan briefly wonders about Anwar, but Isabella urges him to dig into the case -- and even confront the imperious Corrinne. As U.S. officials keep getting their aims, motives, and methods dead wrong, Isabella embodies what's "right." Meanwhile, Abasi's rebellious daughter, Fatima (Zineb Oukach), is in love with Khalid El-Emin (Moa Khouas). At first she doesn't know he's a jihadist, but eventually she has to face the consequences of her dedication to him -- and his own dedication to a violent cause. Torn between ambition and idealism, knows that the CIA acts illicitly to achieve great goals, but he still believes he can behave honorably. After he witnesses a colleague's bloody suicide bombing death, Douglas is asked to oversee the interrogation of a suspect. Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally) appears to be an Egyptian-born engineer and nothing more, causing Douglas to wonder about his own pursuit of the truth at all costs. Back in D.C., Freeman confesses to boss Corinne (Meryl Streep) that he's not sure if his "first torture" is going well. Camille insists repeatedly that the U.S. doesn't torture. Technically, this is true, for Anwar's primary abuser is an Egyptian, Abasi Fawel (Igal Naor). Anwar is eventually sent to Abasi's secret prison, where he continues to claim his innocence. Anwar's wife Isabella (Reese Witherspoon) heads to D.C. to seek help from ex-boyfriend and senator's aide, Alan (Peter Sarsgaard). Alan briefly wonders about Anwar, but Isabella urges him to dig into the case -- and even confront the imperious Corrinne. As U.S. officials keep getting their aims, motives, and methods dead wrong, Isabella embodies what's "right." Meanwhile, Abasi's rebellious daughter, Fatima (Zineb Oukach), is in love with Khalid El-Emin (Moa Khouas). At first she doesn't know he's a jihadist, but eventually she has to face the consequences of her dedication to him -- and his own dedication to a violent cause.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

Anguished and well-meaning, RENDITION raises questions concerning American use of torture. While it represents the dire threat of jihadist terrorism (here, a suicide bomb in an unidentified North African city that kills civilians and a CIA agent), Gavin Hood's film also challenges the effectiveness of torture as a way to fight back. But the overly simplified story focuses solely on the moral agonies and stubborn heroism of white U.S. citizens, mainly the very visible struggles of significantly named Freeman , while the film's most compelling plot about the Abasi family's struggles takes a back seat.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the movie portrays the practice of torture. As viewers sort out their own feelings about what he goes through, does it matter whether Anwar is guilty or innocent? How is watching torture different than seeing other types of media violence? Should anti-torture laws ever be sacrificed for security?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 18, 2007
DVD release date:February 19, 2008
Cast:Jake Gyllenhaal, Omar Metwally, Reese Witherspoon
Director:Gavin Hood
Studio:New Line
Genre:Drama
Run time:121 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:torture/violence and language.

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008

A brutal look at America today

I just watched "Rendition," a searing drama and heart-pounding suspense film last night with my good friend Hans and his sister Kate last night. It kept us on the edge of our seats, if not the whole film. You see, Hans is a bit harsh on films, and felt that it was sort of slow, but this is my review and I didn't see that. The film takes off with an explosion in South Africa, and shows its brutal after-effects. *SPOILER ALERT* It then flashes back (*SPOILER ALERT* over) to a woman in America talking to her husband on his cell phone, and he tells her he'll be home in a few days. When he arrives in Washington, D.C., officials smuggle hom into a room, and he is questioned. His file is erased, and they fly him on a small plane to Africa, keep him in an underground chamber, and torture him. Why? Because they suspect him of being involved in the attack, and because federal laws allow it. Meanwhile back in America, his wife is getting worried and calls the airport. They say that they have no record of him getting on, and she panics. All the while there is a forbidden love story with a sinister twist going on in Africa. So, I would highly reccomend this film to anyone over 14, for it is brutally violent and filled with profanity. Though this didn't affect Hans, Kate or I at all, it would many others our age.
Parent Written byZhash November 10, 2012

Great movie.

Rated R for torture/violence and language
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Adult Written bylynnjc April 9, 2008

watch, think

This is a fab film. If you’ve watched it and it doesn’t make you think, then you must be brain dead. It gives a good argument against rendition. It gives a good argument for rendition. It shows how torture can save lives when the information given prevents a massacre. It shows the suffering of the innocent. It may not change your opinion but it should make you consider the opposite argument –and its consequences. OK, it’s a simplified argument (but it’s a >2hr movie: what do you expect!). Entertaining enough for the masses, but could just make the masses think (shock, horror!).

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