What lengths should we, as civil human beings, be allowed to take in order to insure justice? Should torture be justified if it meant shutting down a potential threat or if it revealed information that would further us as a society? Interesting question; personally, I don’t believe in torture – it simply doesn’t work in my opinion. I’m not even looking at the issue through a moral standpoint, but from a factual one. If it did work, yes, I’d endorse it. Call me a sadist, but I’d rather have the federal government use vicious tactics on one deserving human if it meant saving the lives of millions of innocent civilians. But thanks to my luck, I discovered a film called “Unthinkable,” which unfortunately failed to land a theatrical release.
“Unthinkable,” which stars Samuel L. Jackson, Carrie-Anne Moss, Brandon Routh and Michael Sheen, drifts much too close to a political torture porn, but luckily stays in the realm for the on-screen violence to not only be thought-provoking but also tense and borderline scary.
“Unthinkable,” which is directed by Gregor Jordan and written by Peter Woodward, follows “H” (Samuel L. Jackson), a black ops interrogator and Agent Helen Brody (Carrie-Anne Moss), an FBI agent, both of whom are assigned to finding the location of three nuclear weapons which are set in the United States. However, both also have different strategies with dealing with the detained Steven Arthur Younger (Michael Sheen), who is the mastermind of the whole plot.
Although not actually an officer, H plays the “bad cop” in the situation and isn’t afraid to use torture as a medium for extracting information. Brody, however, objects to such behavior. But it’s all legal and in fact, H has been specifically brought in for his special “talents.” Brody, of course, plays the “good cop” and insists on using promises of protection in order to sway the uncompromising terrorist. Throughout the entire film’s running time, it’s a race against the clock in order to find the locations of the three bombs before millions of people die in the attack – this of course means a lot of time for H to show his hand at sadism to the disgusted Brody.
Now, the majority of my praise for “Unthinkable” doesn’t come from its storyline, which places the characters in an abandoned gymnasium with Younger being held center-stage in a holding tank, or even its pacing, script, or character development. Have no fear, Peter Woodward does an excellent job at all the aforementioned, but it’s really the question at hand that never lets go off your attention: is torture justified?
H is the main focus behind the entire film, but another question that the film raises is: Are his methods really the only way of destroying the threat of terrorism? Without revealing too much, I’ll just say that during the third act of the film, H has the opportunity to crack Younger, who seems unaltered by the constant abuse. Sadly, it’s a bit unconventional – hell, it’s pure insanity, but it would work. Will Brody and the rest of the squad interject before H has the time for the plan to fully take its course? Would allowing H to do the “unthinkable” allow for better results? Is just one act of evil really that damning if it saves more than it hurts?
Of course, from a cinematic standpoint, “Unthinkable” remains pristine; the acting is top notch from all of its leads – especially Sheen, who definitely strays away from his usual territory this time around. But Jackson is excellent in his own right. It’s his performance that makes “Unthinkable” so tense and so claustrophobic. H is unpredictable and thus the film remains unpredictable and Jackson plays the character masterfully. However, Moss is no light-weight either. She remains a formidable moral counterpart to H.
“Unthinkable” is simply extraordinary, but the fact that it was shunned from theaters for its subject matter is just unthinkable. This is one of the most thought-provoking films of the entire year.
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