Rendition casts Jake Gyllenhaal as a CIA analyst confronted with the process of extraordinary rendition. Supervising a secret torture of a terror suspect, Douglas Freeman (Gyllenhaal) questions whether this practice even works to get information. Since all of this goes on in secret, Gyllenhaal didn’t have any real CIA agents with whom to research.
Gyllenhaal on Rendition
"I never talked to anybody who I don’t think would admit or say they were involved in any sort of extraordinary rendition situation," said Gyllenhaal. "I only talked to CIA officers for fact checking. I think I found that when you talk to someone who has a job like that it's very technical and the questions you want as an actor are a little bit more emotional, but I think that’s a real key into a character anyway. A lot of it was actually watching movies of people who played CIA agents and officers, and then a couple of movies of a couple of people who have played alcoholics."
Those movies ranged from classics to recent duds. "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, which is a merging of the alcoholic and the spy, literally and in the movie. And then also, The Good Shepard actually, which I think, just a little shout out to Matt Damon, that’s a pretty incredible performance. More about the less he does, then the more he does and that’s the kind of performance that I look up to. So, I just tried to copy it."
Don't think Gyllenhaal plays the good guy who's going to save the suspect from the bad government types. His business is more practical than that. "The character asks himself the question not if it's the right thing or the wrong thing but does this work or does it not work? And it's very simple. I think if he weren't an analyst, I think the decision would be very different. But it comes to this doesn’t work. This particular situation, it doesn't work. So it's nice to think that someone would be able to see through all of those complications and all that ego and make the decision. We always say if it ain't broke, don't fix it but we never say if it's broken, don't use it or if it doesn't work, don't use it. I think that's kind of the decision he makes. This was a very practical move. If there can be more characters who make more practical decisions, I think that's hopefully the way modern cinema can work."
Since the movie is designed to provoke debate on issues, Gyllenhaal hopes that practicality can enter the discussion. "I think that as a culture, I think that the hope in watching this character, that there can be people who can make these decisions, I think it takes you out of the present of what is actually going on. I think there is a lot more muck than we think that there is. I think hope is the wrong message right now. I think really working at it is the right message. I don't know how successfully that was portrayed. I don't know if we did. That's an audience's decision to make that decision but I just wanted to say that."