Roger Ebert called it "perfect," and certainly the timing couldn't have been much better: "Rendition" was released just as the U.S. was debating anew the issue of "extraordinary rendition," a policy (begun under the Clinton administration, accelerated after September 11, 2001) of handing over suspected terrorists to countries that use torture as an interrogation tool. Alas, the movie only rarely fills in the outlines of a prototypical "issue movie," the kind of thing peopled by cardboard characters tracing the patterns of an important, indeed urgent, subject. The plot kicks into gear when an Egyptian-born man (Omar Metwally) is sent to an unnamed North African country where torture is practiced, with the CIA in approval. The film takes a "Crash" dive through how this affects various people: his pregnant American wife (Reese Witherspoon), the reluctant CIA agent (Jake Gyllenhaal) on the scene, a severe interrogator (Yigal Naor), all the way up to a U.S. terrorism honcho (Meryl Streep) willing to turn a blind eye to the unpleasantness if it stops a terrorist attack. Things spark briefly when Witherspoon enlists an old beau (Peter Sarsgaard) to plead her case with his boss, a U.S. Senator (Alan Arkin), but for the most part director Gavin Hood ("Totsi") can't find a way to color in these line drawings, despite the formidable actors doing spirited work. The issue is fully and lucidly explained, but the movie doesn't come alive. "--Robert Horton"