Monday, January 4, 2010


Gavin Hood, 2007 (8.1*)
This is not a very pleasant movie to witness, but it is both a timely one and make some important political statements regarding terrorism and national security. The story begins with Reese Witherspoon on the phone with her husband, played by Omar Metwally, now a petro-engineer attending a conference in So. Africa, about picking him up at the D.C. airport. He boards the plane but upon arrival is whisked away by U.S. security agents, apparently because his cell phone was called by a suspected terrorist, and he's an Egyptian national living in the U.S. on a green card, which makes him a third class citizen with few rights. We are then shown a suicide bombing in a public plaza in Cairo, witnessed by CIA field operative Jake Gyllenhaal (whose name is "Freeman", perhaps too obvious) to visually illustrate what real worldwide terrorism is about. Over the course of the film, British director Gavin Hood brings these stories slowly together in what is both a scary and a realistic scenario.

This film exposes some important dilemnas, voiced by Meryl Streep in a small but very effective role as the CIA op who can have certain suspicious individuals whisked away, under "extraordinary rendition", a polite way of saying that individual rights and due process under law are waived in times of martial law, which certainly now exists to combat militant extremists. Veteran Alan Arkin is also perfect as a politically-minded U.S. Senator, balancing the thin line of what's right vs. staying electable. Gyllenhaal is effective as someone relatively new to the game of information extraction from prisoners, witnessing the best acting in the film for me by Yigal Naor, totally believable as the ruthless Egyptian security head who will stop at nothing to gain information from suspected terrorists, and to protect his beautiful daughter, played by Zineb Oukach.

If you can stomach it, watch the documentary on the dvd, called "Outlawed" for a brutal look at eyewitness accounts of torture under U.S. supervision, which inspired director Hood in making this movie. It also helps explain why much of the terrorism is directed at the U.S. This is a scary subject, one that likely won't go away anytime soon, as each side refuses to budge and insists on it's own self-righteous political stand.

Quote (from Alan Arkin as the Senator, to a lawyer on his staff): "If you don't want to compromise, join Amnesty International"


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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