Gavin Hood, whose “Tsotsi” became the first film from the former Apartheid state to win an Academy Award, will make his Hollywood debut directing first-time screenwriter Kelley Sane’s multi-layered story centering on a CIA analyst based in Cairo who finds his world spinning out of control after he witnesses the interrogation of a foreign national by the Egyptian secret police. Witherspoon has been tapped to play Isabella El-Ibrahim, the pregnant American wife of an Egyptian-born chemical engineer whose family emigrated to the States in the mid 1980s, who is shipped off to a third world country for interrogation after he is deemed a political prisoner in our post-9/11 world.
This film includes strong performances by Peter Sarsgaard and Jake Gyllenhaal, two men who try to do the right thing in a post-9-11 world where interrogations are used. A debate rages over if they are actually torture sessions or a needful means of gaining intelligence for the protection of the United States. Meryl Streep, playing a leading official in Washington is also, as always, excellent in her role.
The director, Gavin Hood, does a good job of laying some mystery before the viewer. I found myself going back and forth between my convictions in regards to the innocence of the tortured man. Some of the characters in this film have difficult decisions to make, and some lead to life changing results. Unfortunately, the film crosses the line in the violence and language categories, as well as the drugs and nudity categories, and we cannot award our Dove Seal to the picture as a family-friendly film.