Anwar, a man of Egyptian heritage, who has lived in the U.S. for 20 years and is married to an American and has a child, visits Africa for a conference. He is a chemical engineer. When he arrives back in the Chicago airport he is taken from the plane before he reaches the waiting area. He is captured by the CIA, who think he is a terrorist sympathizer because the phone number of a known terrorist appears on his cell phone bill. They also believe he has lent them his knowledge of chemistry to make their bombs smarter.
He is taken out of the country and interrogated by our allies - I am unclear on this, I believe it is Israelis who interrogate him (location "classified", according to the movie site). Douglas Freeman, A CIA analyst, newly turned field officer, is assigned as an observer. This agent was thrown into this position because the agent who normally has the job was killed in a suicide bombing.
At the other end, Anwar's wife Isabella tries to find out what happened to her husband, why he was not at the airport when she came to pick him up. She runs into walls, of course, one particular one in the form of Meryl Streep, the head of the terrorism unit of the CIA, who directs these "extraordinary rendition" captures. Streep does an admirable job being cold and unsympathetic and playing the party line. Douglas is less cold, if just as committed to finding the truth. When he watches torture - by whatever name you want to call it - and sees the result, he is inclined to believe the prisoner knows nothing, has done nothing.
The basic question, the argument for torture, is raised and is answered different ways: does torture produce results? Here I was rather hoping someone would pull out one of the many studies that show that it does not, but I suspect for the sake of the script that wasn't an option. I think the point was made nevertheless.
Will Douglas do the right thing? Will he get Anwar freed and home to his family? I think we all know that there are many men who have spent months and years in prisons, who have been given no recourse, no representation, no ability even to see their families. Perhaps Anwar will be luckier?