BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
MARCH 4, 2014
Before “Zero Dark Thirty” caught everyone’s attention about the treatment of terrorist suspects in other countries, “Rendition” explored the same basic idea six years before a much lesser audience. But what’s the difference? Were people not ready to hear about the idea of “extraordinary rendition” back then, which was a very real thing that occurred under the go-ahead from the George W. Bush administration? One thing “Rendition” did have on its side was star power, which is actually what finally got me to see it. While “Zero Dark Thirty” has impressive newcomers that will be legends decades from now in Jessica Chastain and Jason Clarke, “Rendition” has household names like Jake Gyllenhaal, Meryl Streep, and Reese Witherspoon, which on paper, really sells this film on its own.
When “Rendition” came out in 2007, I paid little attention, probably because I am not that in touch with politics, especially back then. With its entire plot focusing on the event of a U.S. citizen and family man being intercepted at an international airport and being immediately deported to be tortured in a foreign country, there’s not much sheer entertainment value in that to grab anyone’s attention. But add to that the familiar faces, like Gyllenhaal in his follow-up role to the dark and brooding Fincher movie, “Zodiac” or Meryl Streep in one of her only villainous roles, and the reasons for seeing the film skyrocket. And once you take the film at face value, the story becomes interesting and you start learning more about this strange occurrence in our nation’s history and you start to wonder why this wasn’t a bigger deal in the media at the time.
Timing is the key factor here. Not long after the death of Osama Bin Laden, “Zero Dark Thirty” made waves with a female director and the story of how men were tortured to divulge information to find and kill Bin Laden. “Rendition” takes no real measures in focusing on any real-life counterparts and presents a political fiction simply based on ideas. Both films have great performances in them, with a fantastic cast of characters, but “Zero Dark Thirty” proves so much more with its unseasoned cast and with a shocking look at that world, in which the curtain is drawn back on some of our nation’s dirty secrets. “Rendition” is a film that always feels like a film, which makes the audience lack that connection that latches them to the material. We may love the actors in their roles, but in the end, it’s watching them play these roles instead of becoming these roles that make the huge difference.
October 19, 2007
New Line Cinema
(for torture/violence and language)