World premiere at Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto
6:30 pm, 7/11 TIFF 2007
There is a certain point in Rendition when a haunting image will strike you. As the good battles despair, the bad seeks glory and the ugly raises its hydra-heads, Douglas stands and watches. He turns, as shadows on his face coagulate; and suddenly the light balances the dark. You notice the sadness within the blue, and the rest just turns into mundane. It is this simple sense of grief that will permeate through the rest of the film, linger while the note on the flute turns into whisper, gradually seeping into your heart. You realize that this sadness is meant to be universal; for the derivative emotions invoked will just depend on who is watching the film. A rapid chill will run through every immigrant’s heart, some will polarize into red and blue, some may just shake their heads, while quite a few will be glad that Arar received a settlement.
“This is my first torture”, you will hear Douglas say. You will laugh at the wordplay, and will be sad again. And this, indeed, is Gavin Hood’s coup the grace. He has done his homework well, and uses Morocco and Washington deftly, like an artist mingling two colors on her palette. Two cities and two cultures contradict and contrast each other, but in the end turn into shades of gray. He develops characters with both naiveté and brilliance. Some are stereotypes – Meryl Streep scorches, Alan Arkin slithers, while Peter Sarsgaard’s empathy soothes Reese Witherspoon’s despair. But it is the brilliance of Omar Metwally, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Yigal Naor that will mesmerize you. Three sets of eyes will cut your attention into three equal parts.
The plot is well-known, so there is no point going there. The plot twist is not novel; you have seen time wrapping up into one, and space splitting into two. Wong Kar-wai, Alejandro Iñárritu, and Chris Nolan have been there, done that. But what Gavin Hood offers is a poignant point of inflexion. Moral polarities neutralize amidst blood and gore. It is also at this point that the broken pieces of Douglas simply glue up. There is just one thing that irks you in the end – every sub-plot has a conclusion except one. Is there a hidden message after all? Perhaps hope is not supposed to end.
Rendition, like any other film that deals with moral issues, treads on thin ice. You always wonder – what is right and what is wrong? The answer could be simple – embedded within a name. While Metwally scintillates, that name belongs to Jake Gyllenhaal.
If Rendition does not win an Oscar, you will hear Rattler’s sigh for sure.