The term Extraordinary Rendition has been seen quite a lot recently in the media as it has been used in reference to the alleged transfer of terrorist suspects to countries with less stringent human rights in order to interrogate them for longer periods and with the use of psychological and physical abuse.
The film tells the story of a teacher who is noticed by the authorities through his unusual choice of lesson material, this leads them to kidnap him and fly him to a country where they can interrogate him with much more rigorous methods, believing him to be a terrorist.
Extraordinary Rendition does attempt to tell this man's story without pointing fingers at specific agencies or groups, and keeps the viewpoint fixed from one of these kidnapped suspects, from the confused and frightened victim.
However given that big build up and the subject matter, the film isn't as hard hitting or as powerful as I thought it would be. In fact there were a few things in the film that kept me away fro the characters and the story.
One of the things I felt got in the way of the film and stopped it from being harder hitting than it turned out, was the editing. It was quite harsh and didn't give the story a very consistent flow during the beginning.
The film attempted to keep us in the time frame of the torture and flash backwards and forwards through events in the man's life, and while that provided an interesting way of telling the story, it also provided confusion to begin with.
A perfect example of this was the time spent in the crate. It felt as though not even a day had passed and yet I am sure that there was a desire to have the audience feel that a fair amount of time actually had, or that you were as disorientated as the character was. Neither was the case for me.
The camera work was much less Bourne and more NYPD Blue. It felt more realistic and documentary like, but for some earlier scenes there was just too much coverage.
For example the scene of the man being taken to the airplane by the mysterious group was shown repeatedly from every angle. It was already clear that the man was being taken against his will aboard the plane, however the film deemed it necessary to repeat the point and hammer the moment home.
These kind of issues are easy to get through, however with them all being so close to the start of the story made it a bit difficult to get into and get connected with.
I felt as though the film was trying to deliberately make me feel disorientated and make me understand that the character was confused about time. I can appreciate that would have been a very effective thing to do, but here I didn't get the feeling that it was working.
Perhaps the most disappointing parts seemed to be the dialogue between characters pre and post the torture event.
A number of times during a conversation it felt as though though the dialogue was going somewhere, somewhere important and meaningful, but lines were repeated, stammered and stopped. This was particularly noticeable during the argument between the couple at the end of the film, it seemed to be building up to delivering a big point, and just stuttered and ended abruptly.
During the interrogation scenes it did lack some power. Where I thought I would have been feeling much more uncomfortable and genuinely shocked and scared, the film never quite took me to that level. I felt I should have been as shocked and as uncomfortable as I was when I first watched Hostel, but I felt that I had seen much more disturbing images on the internet and news, and I almost felt conditioned to these scenes.
Actually, that in itself is a disturbing thought.
Although I was very aware of the inhumanity on display during these scenes, I never felt that it captured the mental abuse he would probably have gone through, nor the scale of the effect it had on him afterwards.
One of the strongest aspects of the film is that it does feel like a documentary, it never feels overly scripted and the filming style gives a very "being there" feel. What this did mean though is that you felt you were looking on occurring events rather than being emotionally involved with them, and throughout the film I felt that I was missing that connection.
One big surprise for the film was seeing Andy Serkis playing the role of head torturer. He was a strong choice in the role and portrayed the character well. He felt as though he was very much in control and extremely dangerous, yet all the while keeping a sympathetic connection with the prisoner.
The lead, Omar Berdouni, is instantly recognisable from United 93 (Filmstalker review), he did seem prone to mumbling at times and didn't totally convince me during the torture scenes, but he was stronger when his character had returned home.
As was the character of his girlfriend, played by Ania Sowinski. She too was much stronger as their characters began to struggle with each other.
The film ends just at the right point, although the over demonising of the crowd did feel a little blatant and unsubtle, it did give the film a strong ending and a powerful message. It may be an obvious message, but it needs to be said time and time again until the people behind these acts realise that they are a huge part of the problem.
Overall it's a good film that will no doubt raise debate and controversy, and also help pave the way for more rational people to stop acts of human rights violation in the name of democracy.