A Lackluster 'Rendition'
Reese Witherspoon paces and cries through "Rendition" in a performance that does as much a disservice to her talent as the movie does to the issues it raises.
Billed as a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller, "Rendition" is actually another sluggish, by-the-numbers procedural, given a frisson or two by its debt to current events. As the film opens, a bomb goes off in a town square in an unidentified North African country; a U.S. CIA operative is killed, and his underling, an inexperienced analyst played by Jake Gyllenhaal, heads up the ensuing investigation. (See In Focus on Page 31.) Meanwhile, Egyptian-born Anwar el-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally), on his way back home to Chicago from South Africa, is detained at Dulles International Airport, then put on a plane to the aforementioned North African country for some gloves-off interrogation about his possible role in the bombing. Witherspoon plays el-Ibrahimi's panicked wife, who appeals to an old flame, now a Senate aide (Peter Sarsgaard; see story on Page 31), for help.
It would have been interesting if "Rendition" had engaged its nominal issues with real sophistication and urgency; instead, it is content to use them as a backdrop for a flabby story of too many subplots and too few subtleties. Although Metwally does a good job as the enormously sympathetic el-Ibrahimi, Witherspoon and Gyllenhaal are weirdly underused in roles that are little more than billboards. As it goes about hitting its predictable marks, including a reassuring burst of moral outrage, "Rendition" suffers, finally, from not being extraordinary enough.
-- Ann Hornaday
Rendition R, 120 minutes Contains profanity, torture and violence. Area theaters. Rendition R, 120 minutes Contains profanity, torture and violence. Area theaters.