Anwar Al-Ibrahimi, an Egyptian-American chemical engineer with a Green Card, is apprehended by the CIA on his return flight from a conference in South Africa. Why? Because his phone records showed that he received cell-phone calls from Rashid Salimi, a well-known terror mastermind.
Al-Ibrahimi has an American wife Isabella (Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon), pregnant with their second children, and eagerly waiting for him back in their Chicago suburban home. Al-Ibrahimi is whisked away from the Dulles Airport in Washington DC for a CIA interrogation when William Dixon, a CIA official, is killed by a suicide bomber at a “North African” country – which suspiciously looks like Morocco. Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal), a CIA analyst who’s not fit for covert operations by his own admission, reluctantly steps in to fill the void left from Dixon.
When Al-Ibrahimi does not ‘fess up to knowing Rashid Salimi but when he also can’t explain how come he kept receiving Salimi’s phone calls, he’s bundled up and sent back to the “North African” country for the kind of interrogation that the US laws would not allow.
What follows are revolting scenes of torture in a dark leaky dungeon while Isabella tries her best to retrieve her husband through her old flame Alan Smith (Peter Sarsgaard), now a high-ranking Senate staffer. But she hits a wall of silence since CIA chief Corrine Whitman (Meryl Streep) is adamant to “pay the price” and punish the killers of her subordinate. She is a force of nature who does not take any prisoners on the battle field.
An important subplot involves the story of the “Arab” chief on intelligence Abasi Fawal (played with amazing authority by Yigal Naor), his daughter and the Arab kid who both loves her and ends up an anti-government suicide-bomber trying to kill Fawal, the father of his girlfriend.
At the end Douglas Freeman manages to free Anwar Al-Ibrahimi from Fawal’s dungeon and sends him back home to his wife, son, and mother. But damage is done both to him and to his wife’s sense of what’s right and what’s wrong in pursuit of the U.S. national security interests.
A film that forces us to meditate over a number of unpleasant realities that became a part of our lives in the post-9/11 world. Recommended.
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