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After overblown stories of walkouts by critics during its Toronto film festival debut, "Rendition" proves to have enough substance, momentum and drama to validate its entertainment value as a politically charged thriller. Reese Witherspoon plays Isabella, the pregnant wife of Egyptian American Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally), a chemical engineer who gets abducted by U.S. Special Forces on suspicion of terrorism upon his return from a business convention in South Africa. El-Ibrahimi is secreted to a North African dungeon where local police kingpin Abasi gleefully tortures him with the tacit assistance of CIA cat’s paw Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal) who survived the suicide bombing that gave rise to El-Ibrahimi’s abduction.

"Rendition" comes out in a season of R-word film tittles (see "Redacted" and "Reservation Road") set to assault cinema marquees with bloody threads of alliteration. What these films share in common is the death of young people by mechanized forces. Cars, bullets and bombs dismantle callow human life with an abstract force and logic that most people can comprehend, if not rationalize, in a way that lets those responsible off the hook. "Rendition" is the best of the three movies because it’s a humanitarian film rather than a political one even if that subtext is present. It might not rise to the complexity of "Syriana," but "Rendition" isn’t a flimsy movie either. Special features include English and Spanish subtitles, audio commentary with director Gavin Hood, a documentary short, and a making-of featurette. Aspect ratio is 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, with sound quality produced in Dolby Digital 5.1, and 2.0. (Movie – Three Stars, DVD features – Three Stars) Rated R, 122 mins. (New Line)

February 24, 2008 in Suspense Thriller | Permalink