Directed by Gavin Hood (R)
A foreign government kidnaps and tortures an American suspected of terrorism.
Good intentions don’t always make for a good movie, said A.O. Scott in The New York Times. Although “well-meaning and honorable,” Rendition can be tossed atop Hollywood’s growing pile of topical wartime dramas. The issue here is a policy known as “extraordinary rendition,” which was created by Clinton but has been practiced more often by Bush. Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally), suspected of terrorism, is extradited to an anonymous country. There he’s tortured for information, while his pregnant wife (Reese Witherspoon) races to save him. Director Gavin Hood has an honest and serious goal with Rendition, and he succeeds at using “mainstream moviemaking to get viewers thinking about a moral crisis that many of us would prefer to ignore.” No one would suggest such issues aren’t important, said David Ansen in Newsweek. Hood “raises all the right questions about the government’s use of the War on Terror to trash the Constitution and trample on individual liberties.” But despite good intentions and a cast that includes Meryl Streep and Peter Sarsgaard, Rendition is too much of a complicated mess to make any real difference. The film’s “intricate, map-like structure” will alienate viewers who want a sense of the larger issues, said Stephanie Zacharek in Salon.com. It’s just another political film that raises awareness but chooses not “to make sense out of madness.”