'Rendition' is the political thriller from South African director Gavin Hood that deals with one of the most controversial human rights issues of our time.
Written by former photographer and relatively unknown scriptwriter, Kelley Sane, 'Rendition' is yet another film to be spawned from the actions of the US in the Middle East and the growth in religious extremism.
Witherspoon stars as Isabella El-Ibrahimi whose husband Anwar (Metwally) is abducted by the CIA in the aftermath of a suicide bombing in North Africa. Gyllenhaal is the CIA analyst based in North Africa tasked with overseeing the interrogation and torture of Anwar, an Egyptian-born chemical engineer whose family emigrated to the US in 1990.
A heavily pregnant Isabella heads to Washington to enlist the help of an old college friend, Alan Smith (Sarsgaard), who now works for Senator Hawkins (Arkin). Smith discovers that Corinne Whitmann (Streep), the CIA's Head of Terrorism, has authorised Anwar's transfer to Egypt.
The subplot involves the head of the Egyptian secret police Abasi Fawal (Igal Naor); the man charged with interrogating Anwar, his daughter Fatima (Zineb Oukach) and her extremist boyfriend Khalid (Moa Khouas).
The process of extraordinary rendition was initiated in the Clinton era but has taken on a life of its own in the wake of the 11 September attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Foreigners who are deemed a threat to US national security are abducted for interrogation in prisons in countries on the other side of the world.
The subject will also be dealt with in another film, 'Extraordinary Rendition', which is a British-based production written and directed by Jim Threapleton.
This is director Hood's first film in Hollywood following his success with 'Tsotsi', which won the 2006 Oscar for Best Foreign Film.
While Gyllenhaal and Witherspoon are the main stars their paths never cross in a film that produces a myriad of storylines but one-dimensional characters. Gyllenhaal, for example, is the stereotypical CIA agent with a conscience who defies orders after being promoted when his superior is killed in the suicide bombing.
Streep fails to convince as CIA chief Whitmann and Witherspoon is unlikely to class this as her greatest moment on screen. However, there are impressive performances from Metwally, whose character is abducted from a flight from Cape Town to Chicago, and Naor.
The subplot of Abasi Fawal and his family troubles is an interesting one and provides a neat twist towards the finish that lifts the film.
While 'Rendition' is thought-provoking, it ultimately fails to deliver despite the subject matter and impressive cast list.