He is arrested when he disembarks from a plane in America; he is denied access to a lawyer and whisked away (rendered) for ‘enhanced interrogation’ (torture) to an unnamed North African country.
The word ‘perfect’ comes in because, in an amazing way, everyone in the story is credible. It is almost certain the arrested man is innocent but his pregnant wife, who already has one child and who gradually comes to realise what has happened to him – despite denials of knowledge of his whereabouts in all official quarters – finds herself with traces of agonising doubt about him, which she suppresses in order to concentrate on finding him.
The Arab man tasked with the ‘interrogation’ uses both physical and psychological torture – but reluctantly and with some measure of restraint. He is a family man and it emerges that his daughter is breaking the traditional ‘rules’ about how a young Arab woman is supposed to behave.
She is in love with a man but she harbours doubts about his activities and in the end it turns out that he is a suicide bomber who has been indoctrinated in an extreme religious school and taught to sacrifice his life for ‘the cause’ or be condemned to hell.
And then we see the American CIA agent, who has to witness the ‘interrogation’ and report back to Washington, gradually reaching a defining moment when he realises the arrested man is innocent and he works to free him from the Arabs before they know what he is doing.
And finally there are the ‘hidden men’ – mainly a woman actually – in Washington who have orchestrated the whole rendition programme and justify themselves that the law has to be bent a little to save countless lives. This is post 9/11 America and the film cleverly half hides the famous landmarks of the capitol, implying that the constitution of the United States has to be ignored a little in the interests of national security.
It is a frightening film in that all the characters are ‘good’ people but doing despicable things. If we could only blame someone, or hate someone, in the story it would be easier to watch. But there is an unrelieved decency about everyone and no one comes across as evil.
Yet the whole film is about the evil to which good people can descend when they suppress the questions that arise within them and convince themselves that ‘the end justifies the means.’Post published in: Opinions & Analysis