Anwar El-Abrahimi (played by Omar Metwally) is Egyptian and living in the US. He’s an academic and happily married to an American, Isabella (by Reese Witherspoon). She is heavily pregnant and looking after their son in Chicago, while Anwar is in South Africa at a conference. He calls her to say he is on his way home and they arrange to meet at the airport. On the other side of the world, a suicide bombing in North Africa kills several people including an American envoy and the CIA are eager to get those responsible as swiftly as possible. CIA Executive Corinne Whitman (by Meryl Streep) orders an aircraft in transit to be intercepted by agents and a passenger taken away. Blindfolded, he is thrown into cell in a secret location and all trace of his travel is deleted from airline systems. He is brutally interrogated at the hands of the reliable Egyptian agent Abasi (by Yigal Naor) and inexperienced CIA officer, Douglas Freemen (by Jake Gyllenhaal) is sent to observe the interrogation. Anwar maintains his innocence throughout the torture, which causes Douglas to question the methods and outcomes of this practice. Back in Chicago, Isabella waits at the airport for Anwar, but he doesn’t arrive. When she checks with the airline, there is no record of him being on the flight … strange, how can that be? She turns to an old friend who works in the CIA, Alan Smith (by Peter Sarsgaard) for help. Everyone is sure that Anwar is innocent so this must be a really horrible mistake … right?
This is a great movie, I enjoyed it a lot. From the outset, the story is told well, the drama unfolds in well constructed sequence and the characters are all fascinating. Woven into the story are several scenarios set in North Africa which provide the valuable perspective of those on the other side of this issue – Muslims – students and families, with their cultural issues featured well. The political influences are also well depicted here, Corinne Whitlam (Meryl Streep) is a wholly political character, which is necessary in her job and she does this well, as does the high profile Senator Hawkins (by Alan Arkin) who develops the political melting pot of issues further. Peter Sarsgaard is a great political operator with a good heart and Reese Witherspoon is good in this dramatic role. The Americans are not the key feature though, which is also a good change – there are several characters in the Muslim community who have key roles in the story. There is an interesting chronological twist which will confuse you for a moment, but then come clear, it is well done. Best performances are Jake Gyllenhaal and Yigal Naor as the interrogators at the coal-face of this drama, with complicating issues in their lives. There are some violent and graphic scenes in the movie but overall it presents a good balanced view of all the issues involved and tells a good, compelling drama. It kept me interested all the way through. Well done, a great piece of work by Gavin Hood.
Made in 2007. Directed by Gavin Hood