/ Jimmy's Corner: The United States does not torture, Douglas!

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Sunday, January 27, 2008 

The United States does not torture, Douglas!

Douglas Freeman: I am sorry, this is my first torture.
Corrine Whitman: The
United States does not torture, Douglas....
That was one of the dialogues that caught my ear when I was watching Rendition just a few hours ago. But is the movie as strong as the quoted dialogue says?...

A movie that has a two time Oscar winner Meryl Streep, Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon, Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal, Golden Globe nominee Peter Sarsgaard and the Egyptian American actor Omar Metwally must be a masterpiece that I would enjoy from core to clux, that is what I thought. However, the movie has surprised me, unpleasantly, with many mistakes and misconceptions that are so clear and glareful to spoil the whole interest in watching the movie to its end.

If you have not watched the movie yet, I am not going to spoil it for you. I will just point out the things I'd like to write about here, because this is not meant to be a movie review.

The movie starts with a great mistake before the credits are even done showing. It shows Cape Town, South Africa and Chicago, USA sharing the same afternoon. That is to say you can see Cape Town with the sun ready to set, and then the scene moves to Chicago at the same moment to find the sky going red for sunset. The movie makers seem to have forgotten the fact that if it is 16:00 in Cape Town, it should be so dark as 01:00 in Chicago.

The movie discusses the idea of torture and the rendition policy that is applied since 9/11. It discusses the fact that the CIA has been transferring whoever they suspect to be related to terrorism, send them to Morocco, Egypt or Saudi Arabia for interrogation; in which torture is the whole point. To some extent it also shows how the US officials seem to be living in ivory towers unable to see the fact that they are actually ordering illegtimate torturing of people that tarnishes the image of their country and kills its credibility before the eyes of the world. However, it seems like the movie makers wanted to appear so neutral to the case in a way that resulted in losing the whole point. Nevertheless, you can still smell the contradiction between America after 9/11 and America as stated in the US constitution; the later being too good to be true in the shadow of the earlier. I think the movie makers should have used the two hour timeline of the movie to put a better scenario on the screen.

So many Saudis were so angry after they watched The Kingdom. They thought the movie mis-displayed them and showed the Kingdom as a "jungle", just like Jennifer Garner said about it. I agree with them totally. Riyadh in The Kingdom looked worse than Harlem in New York despite the fact that Riyadh is one of the most beautiful cities in the Gulf. Saudis themselves are represented as a punch of poor-wearing-white-doing-nothing-backward people, while the rest of them are terrorists. These mistakes and misconceptions truly hurt the credibility and the message of The Kingdom. Rendition is not any different, yet even worse.

Rendition's action is mostly shot in Morocco, and I have never seen one paved street in Rendition's Morocco. The movie gives you the feeling that Morocco is simply as small, dirty and backward as the early 19s Egypt that appeared in The Mummy. If you have ever been to Morocco you would know that the movie was either shot in the dirtiest areas of the country or in a studio built in there, but never the real streets of Morocco. What is worse is that, the movie does not refer to it as Morocco, but rather as North Africa; which would tell the American viewer that this is how the whole North Africa looks like.

Then, in the sub-plot, the movie tries to discuss a point that is totally irrelevant to the main plot's point. It shows women in 'North Africa' as poor oppressed objects that are stripped of their very right to choose whom to marry. Once again, a misconception that does more harm than good. Even the only trick in the movie that tries to interweave the sub-plot to the main plot brings the viewer to the fact that women in the Middle East need to be freed the same way innocent terrorist suspect held by USA needs to be freed.

Again, nevertheless, I still like some parts of the movie that if taken out of the whole context would just appear to be nice:
  • Despite the torturing of an innocent man for a whole week, Corrine Whitman (Streep) - to symbolize the US administration - fails to come to terms with the fact that the United States does torture illegally held detainees.
    "The United States does not torture, Douglas." (Oh yeah, tell me about Abu Ghraib)
  • The nature of the confessions the US gets from the people they torture is just like Al Ibrahimi (Metwally) says:
    "Tell me what to say and I will say it."
  • The true outcome of torturing someone is just like Douglas Freeman (Gyllenhaal) states
    "Give me a pie chart, I love pie charts. Anything, anything that outweighs the fact that if you torture one person you create ten, a hundred, a thousand new enemies."
  • The US government is putting everyone under the microscope just like Isabella Al Ibrahimi (Witherspoon) says:
    "You have my name. You have my home address, you have my phone number, you have everything! You have my husband!"
The movie poster as well makes me ask: why don't American movie makers put the pictures of non-American actors on the poster despite the fact that they have leading roles? You can't see Omar Metwally poster the same way you can't see Khaled Abul Nagga on Civic Duty's poster... Something wrong with how they look or what?

Finally, I cannot say anything but that the movie was a big disappointment for me.
No, in fact, it gave me some hope that if Anwar Al Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally) can marry Isabella Fields (Reese Witherspoon) and Omar is Egyptian, then I still have chances with Hillary Duff :D.

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