An Oscar in the offing
It's tough trying to listen to Joy Division; not because of the sparse, industrial music that compliment Ian Curtis' mournful lyrics and monotone voice can sometimes leave a listener cold, but because it's hard not to think that every song was a suicide note.
The 23-year-old Curtis took his own life on 18 May 1980, leaving behind wife Deborah, one-year-old daughter Natalie, a legacy of songs, a mythical pop figure and now, thanks to director Anton Corbijn, a cracking film. Control, adapted from Deborah Curtis' book Touching From A Distance, chronicles the brief life of the doomed singer from surly teenager, through their equally brief marriage, his infatuation with music journalist Annik Honore (Alexandra Maria Lara) and on to her discovery of his body in their kitchen on the eve of Joy Division's first American tour.
Adapted by Matt Greenhalgh (whose previous writing credits of TV's Cold Feet doesn't hint at the downbeat nature of his debut here) and shot in sumptuous B&W by music video director and one-time photographer Corbijn (who took many of the iconic photos of Curtis), Control is a must-see for those grey, rain-drenched trench coat wearing fans.
Corbijn steers a steady ship through the Manchester decay, keeping Curtis' depression at bay until the final act. It's a slow-paced film, deliberately so because Corbijn wants the viewer to experience the frantic nature of a Joy Division gig and when they're on stage the film explodes into sound and movement. It is the previously unknown Sam Riley that makes everything tick, however. Riley obviously studied the hyper-kinetic dance moves and barbiturate eyelids employed by Curtis and the newcomer has him down to a T. It's not all doom and gloom as humour arrives in the flippant one-liners of Joe Anderson's Peter Hook, James Anthony Pearson's little-boy-lost impersonation of Bernard Sumner and Toby Kebbell's by-hook-or-by-crook manager Rob Gretton.
Flippancy is nowhere to be found in the uber serious Rendition. The kidnapping of suspected terrorists and the shipping of them to a foreign country where the laws on torture are lax has been given a name by CIA - Rendition.
Rookie CIA analyst Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is caught in a terrorist blast that kills his superior in an unnamed North African city. The suspect is chemical engineer Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally) - husband to the pregnant Isabella (Reece Witherspoon) - and when he doesn't arrive at the airport, she contacts her politically connected friend Alan Smith (Peter Sarsgaard) for answers. Meanwhile, Anwar is shipped back to Africa where he is ‘interrogated' by Freeman and tough police chief Falwal (Igal Naor), the original target of the blast. Falwal's got his own problems, however: his daughter has been missing for the past week. Tsotsi director Gavin Hood is on to another winner come Oscar night with this superb politically charged thriller that boasts a clever twist ending. For once, however, a film's success doesn't rely on the believability of the twist; Rendition was an engaging thriller regardless and when that twist unexpectedly crops up, it's the cherry, not the cake. It's hard to find any fault with Rendition – the performances, the well-drawn characters and the intricate story all contribute to its success. Meryl Streep and Alan Arkin co-star.