Rendition, Gavin Hood (2007)

The torture scenes here are pretty upsetting, as are these critics bitching about how didactic the movie is. Um, yeah, it’s didactic. The CIA kidnaps people on the basis of circumstantial evidence and flies them to secret prisons abroad and tortures them and/or directs that they be tortured by other governments. That’s kind of worth being didactic about, don’t you think? The movie is dramatic and well-made, the actors are very fine, and there’s even a little bit of fancy footwork with the narrative structure (events that appear contemporaneous are sometimes not). Yes, I suppose you can say that every character, with the possible exception of Jake Gyllenhaal’s, is either good or bad; there’s not a lot of nuance in that regard. When it comes to this topic, though, I think a touch of decisiveness and clear judgment is a welcome corrective to the usual bloviating about how certain situations may require certain exceptions to certain rules. Torture is never acceptable. Suspension of habeas is never acceptable. Anyone who calls those two statements didactic (or partisan, liberal, simplistic, angry, or provocative) has failed to understand the fundamental spirit of the Constitution.


  1. But wouldn’t it have been more “thought provoking” if they had let the man rot in prison and Gyllenhaal’s character accept the system as it is? Why does Hollywood have to be so Hollywood?

  2. You raise a valid point, Tim. Gyllenhaal’s dramatic gesture is very obviously completely unrealistic and would/could never happen in real life. On the other hand, it’s SO unrealistic that it essentially changes the film’s character from realism to allegory. I don’t read it so much as Hollywood, I read it more as a symbolic challenge to DO something. That is probably not what the filmmakers were thinking, but that’s how it comes across, I think. Did you see Michael Clayton? That’s another one where the dirty hero makes a totally unbelievable move toward the light at the end, and in that case I had the same reaction you had to this one. Why do I feel differently about this one? I think because, like I said, the move in this case is so utterly over the top; it doesn’t–it can’t–even pretend to be realistic, the way Michael Clayton does. It’s a symbolic move, not a narrative move. Farfetched reading, probably, but there it is.

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