Saturday, February 28, 2009


The format is increasingly familiar. There are three narrative lines, each populated with stock characters. We have the Yanks at home stream, the Yanks abroad stream and the subtitled sub-story for the foreigners.

An Egyptian-born chemical engineer with a green card finds himself snatched at the airport in DC and shortly afterwards rendered extraordinarily to a generically messed-up Muslim destination. We know he's innocent, whatever his cellphone records might suggest, because he's married to a heavily pregnant Reese Witherspoon.

Assigned to observe his 'first torture' is local CIA man on the ground, Douglas Freeman (played by Gyllenhaal), apparently already lost in a Bowlesian North African nightmare...though unlike Kit Moresby he's going to find a way to back out of the maze.

You can get some shut eye during the parts of the story where Witherspoon follows her husband's trail to the the heart of American power. You might be woken up periodically by the his screams, but the point at which something actually starts happening is just after she's had a good old go at Meryl Streep's CIA harridan Corinne Whitman. The fact that Reese's travails are ultimately of no narrative significance is perhaps why Kelly Sane neglected to develop her character into the central protagonist, but the lack of such is what most impairs this script.

The tale of the torturer's daughter Fatima and her Islamist boyfriend Khalid is also fairly pointless, and the moment one discovers that it has been running in a time-slip is the biggest sensation (one of annoyance) in an otherwise mediocre movie.

Grade: B

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