Alright, here it is. Loyal reader and esteemed blogger Vigilante blew the whistle on our apparent penchant for reviewing "light, fluffy stuff." I tried at great pains to explain to a grumbling Vigil that this is the summer season, and most of the big releases tend to be big, dumb popcorn flicks. But the ever-persistent Vig would not let up, and insisted that we review something more "substantial." He offered 2007's Rendition as a for-instance.
As luck would have it, I have one such review sitting in the Cinema Squared vault, and will unveil it now.Why did it never appear on Cinema Squared? Well, it was written before the birth of Cinema Squared. But now, for Vig...for humanity...I present to you, my review of Rendition in its entirety, written a day after I viewed the film...
Watch how the big scenes in Rendition unfold, and tell me this material isn't ripe for a truly powerful film experience. And in the hands of someone like Mike Nichols, I feel confident in saying that it would have been one of the great films of the decade.
As it stands, Gavin Hood, in his first film since the Oscar-winning Tsotsi, can only deliver a mediocre Nichols impression, juggling several intriguing story lines and dropping every ball along the way.
Critics seem to be crowing about Rendition's obvious, overbearing liberal outrage. On the contrary, it is the limp, procedural nature of the narrative that keeps the film from soaring. It is, in fact, not outraged enough. It is really a run-of-the-mill thriller with an overly-complicated structure--all concept and no execution.
There is arguably no greater ensemble on screen this year--but every well-meaning performance is done a disservice by a script that forgets its characters along the way and makes each actor appear in over their heads. Gyllenhaal only speaks about 10 words and broods the rest of the way. Streep and Arkin share a combined 5 minutes of over-the-top screen time. Witherspoon is made to look amateurish by the film's stunted dialogue. And Peter Sarsgaard, as usual, is so good that he would rise above the entire production--if his character weren't completely forgotten about half way through.
Such potential in this film--and it is completely squandered. What might have been the most complex and intriguing film of the year is actually the simplest and most transparent of 2007's many political dramas.
**My exchange with Vigilante got me thinking...does anyone else have a request? Any film you love, hate, or just simply wonder if it's worth your time and money? Let us know. We will be on call, ready to provide a few words. In the meantime, we will continue to review recent releases...both substantial and fluffy...but why limit ourselves to just the here and now? There is some beautiful stuff in cinema's past. Let us know what you want to see reviewed...we will do our best to provide those reviews. (Vig, that includes you...what else ya got??)