29 July 2008

Rendition,....not really a review

We watched Rendition the other night. It was my first HD rental from the iTunes store, and the picture quality was indeed impressive. And Jake Gylenhall is still really hot, even when he's playing a straight guy. That's the extent of my movie review. On to the putative moral message of the movie, concerning torture.

On my reading, the movie was making some sort of impassioned moral plea, attempting to motivate its audience to take up a position of opposition to torture, and particularly to the current US administration's tacit (and sometimes more explicit) sanctioning of interrogation techniques that clearly amount to torture and to the practice of extraordinary rendition. 

OK, that's a bit on the nose (the movie plot, not my summary of it), but fair enough. 

The movie infuriated me, however, because of the lengths it went to to rig the moral game (the game that makes you think torture might be bad). To wit:

The guy being subject to rendition has lived in America for 20+ years, went to NYU, speaks perfect American-accented English, is married to an 8 months pregnant Reese Witherspoon, has the perfect white-person house in the Chicago suburbs, and is just obviously an all-around nice guy. 

I see, so I'm supposed to not want the CIA and its foreign intelligence minions to capture him at O'Hare, put a bag over his head, fly him to Africa, strip him naked, lock him up in a dirty hole, waterboard him, beat him, and subject him to electrical shock?

Wow, however will I be moved to feel that way? 

Please - if we're going to make a movie that opposes torture on moral grounds, is that really the best we can do?

Torture isn't wrong only when it happens to nice (almost) American guys. It's wrong when it happens to human being (and animals too, but I'll leave that aside), any human beings. 

I want to see the movie that seeks to mobilise opposition against torture in which the person being tortured doesn't speak English, doesn't look like an all-American guy, isn't obviously and clearly innocent - and isn't married to an 8 months pregnant Reese Witherspoon. 

The implicit message of Rendition seems to be: let's not condone explicit policies of torture, because we might end up torturing this guy - and that would be bad and probably wouldn't catch us any terrorists. But on the unturned obverse side of that coin we still find the notion that it might be OK to torture a really bad guy, if they had some information that we really needed.

Is there anyone still saying 'no!' to this latent message? Am I in a significant minority of Americans now in thinking that torture (which I would define rather broadly) should be rejected, criticised, and eschewed at all turns and at all costs, not because it's not effective (although that's true) and not because we might do it to a good guy (although that's true too), but because it violently and irrevocably undermines the most sacred principles of democracy?

1 comment:

Number Three said...

This is a glass half full review. At least it's an American movie taking an anti-torture view.