Magnolia Pictures, 90mins, R
Written and Directed
by Brian De Palma
Brian De Palma hates the American military. No not just the American military, everyone IN the American military. Here he's done something few filmmakers have been brave enough to do win wartime, making a film in which the country in which his is living in depicted in the harshest and ugliest terms imaginable. The message of this film is very simple: America, you're a bunch of Nazis!
Had this been almost any other country De Palma would be in jail for something. God Bless the USA.
What De Palma has done is what is called a “mockumentary” a fictional film done in a documentary style, and is very loosely based on what might be an actual rape of an Iraqi girl sometime in 2006.
Starting with the HD video diary of PFC Angel Salazar (Izzy Diaz) [he wants to get into film school], we're introduced, to his platoon, Corporal Gabe Blix (Kel O'Neill), who spends his time reading John O'Hara's "Appointment in Samarra"; a guy named Lawyer McCoy (Rob Devaney), who has a conscience [GASP!]; and racist a couple of morons: B.B. Rush (Daniel Stewart Sherman) and Reno Flake (Patrick Carroll). Their leader, Master Sgt. James Sweet (Ty Jones), is the only thing keeping them in line, Us Yankee scum being barbarians and all. Their mission is to guard the check points, which means that they have to shoot lots of innocent people. [Did you know that in the last 24 months 2,000 Iraqis were killed at checkpoints and only 60 proven to be insurgents?]
So between the shenanigans on Salazar's tape, and a pseudo-Franch documentary with utilizing an inappropriate rendition of Handel's "Sarabande", we are blasted with the full propaganda message again and again. Our boys blast away at a car containing a pregnant woman and her brother, and when word gets out, they go and arrest some of the relations. Not only that Rush and Flake decide to go and rape one of the women in the house.
Things get from bad to worse for our boys from there, and as the racist stereotypes they are, get what's coming to them. The film ends with photos of the carnage in Iraq, just to get the point across that the viewer is guilty of supporting a fascist regime.
Who, on a Friday evening or Saturday afternoon would, in his or her right mind, go and see this thing? On the one hand, De Palma is a consummate professional. It's clear he knows what he's doing, but the acting is only mediocre, and the documentary style plays against the film, which really doesn't have much of a plot and characters we don't give a flying fuck about.
New Line Cinema, 121mins, R
Okay, as to the title: Rendition refers to 'extraordinary rendition' -- a term which means that suspected terrorists in the US can be kidnapped and sent to prisons abroad to be questioned and detained without those pesky fifth amendment rights. In other words, director Gavin Hood and writer Kelley Sane have decided to make a propaganda film about how Evil Americans are. Hooray for Hollywood.
The film is in two parts, done in such a way as to mislead the audience as to what is exactly going on. The film begins with an assassination attempt on a certain Mr. Abasi Falwal(Igal Naor), in which a terrorist blows up everyone in a city square in an unnamed North African country, including the boss of a certain CIA agent named Douglas Freeman(Jake Gyllenhaal), who witnesses it all.
The Agency suspects a certain gentleman, and that fellow has been allegedly making calls to an Egyptian engineer with a green card named Anwar El-Ibrahimi(Omar Metwally), and kidnaps him just before he gets to passport control in Washington. When he refuses to give the right answers to the local spook(J.K. Simmons), assistant director Corrinne Whitman(Meryl Streep) orders that he be taken to a professional, Abasi Fawal.
Meanwhile, Anwar's wife Isabella(Reese Witherspoon) is wondering where her husband is, especially since it can be proven he was actually on the plane when it took off and he disappeared in mid-flight. Fortunately, she has friends in high places, an old boyfriend named Alan Smith(Peter Sarsgaard) is working for lilly-livered liberal Sen. Hawkins(Alan Arkin), and they agree to investigate.
At the same time we get to look at Abasi's home life, as his daughter Fatima (Zineb Oukach) has a romance with Khalid (Moa Khouas), who just happens to be the brother of a genuine, card-carrying terrorist with a martyr video and everything.
As Douglas watches as Abasi gives Anwar the third degree, waterboarding and everything, it's obvious that somehow the phone number was wrong and our hero is as innocent as the day is long.
It might have been more interesting if there were more intrigue, not just going through the motions of a propaganda exercise. This is to some extent pro-terrorist, and the ending and penultimate scenes are a cheat. The acting is good, but not great, which is what is needed for such an inferior script. Yeah, Hood is a great director, and deserved his Oscar for “Tsotsi,” but this shows why a script is so very important. This is not something that's important enough or entertaining enough to take the time out to blow real money on. Don't bother.