This weekend, the American Civil Liberties Union would like to throw a hood over your head and haul you to an undisclosed movie theater to see Rendition, director Gavin Hood's fictional treatment of the U.S. "extraordinary rendition" and torture-by-proxy practices. The irony is that, according to the slams and pans dished out by Rotten Tomatoes' critics, the film itself is a form of torture-by-proxy. Reese Witherspoon, Jake Gyllenhaal, Meryl Streep -- oh my, I do feel like I'm drowning. This isn't to make light of the issue; it does need to be seriously debated in the public sphere. I just prefer my human-rights violations without all the star-studded sugar.
So, when the ACLU comes knocking on your door, you can tell them, "No, thanks. I'll take my torture at home, please."
For your home-viewing pleasure, here are some other recommended renditions of the rendition theme:
In the 1960s, England's most expensive television series to date was itself based around the concept of rendition. Patrick McGoohan, the original British hard-arse, plays a no-named secret service agent, who, to the rhythm of a rousing drum beat, slams his resignation letter on the desk of his bureau chief. He goes home, packs his suitcase full of travel brochures, and is promptly sleeping-gassed and kidnapped. He wakes up in "The Village," a dystopian community for individuals with sensitive information, located god-knows-where. He's assigned a number, Six, and spends the rest of the series (unsuccessfully) attempting to escape and (successfully) persevering under bizarre forms of torture and interrogation perpetrated by the The Village mayor Number Two. It's a long series that spirals into annoyingly self-indulgent surreality in the final two episodes, so I'm not going to recommend you watch the whole thing at once. Instead, grab the first episode, "Arrival," (usually available for free rental at your local library) plus any of the next five or six, and then skip to episode 11, "It's Your Funeral," which is my absolute favorite, if only because it features the trampoline-boxing sport of "Kosho." You'll want to see this series regardless of your interest in rendition since Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) is hoping to direct the film adaptation.
Chronicle of an Escape (2007)
If Rendition is ACLU's pick, then Chronicle is Amnesty International's. According to Amazon, this film (Cronica de Una Fuga, in its native Spanish) is indeed available on DVD, but you'll probably need to make the extra trip to the independent video store, you know, the one with all the Kieslowski films that you've always meant to watch. Set in Argentina during the 1970s military junta, the film follows a young, innocent soccer player who is accused of being a member of a radical guerilla organization. The reason he's been identified as a radical is because the junta is torturing other radicals and tortured people will basically say anything to stop being tortured, even if means ratting out a guy who had nothing to do with it. The soccer player, Claudio, is kidnapped by the Argentinian secret police (dressed and mustachioed like Starsky & Hutch extras) and spirited off to an ominous Amityville-like horror house, where he and a dozen other innocent men are tortured, beaten, interrogated, starved until they lose all semblance of hope and humanity. But, as the title implies, this is a film with a happy ending, where one last burst of desperate bravery carries them to freedom. In many ways, it feels like the film Alive, in part because of the desperation, but also because, yeah, it is set in Latin America. Unlike Rendition, this is not only a true story, but based on public testimony given by the characters after the junta was overthrown.
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