The movie is based on the infamous "Stanford Prison Experiment" conducted in 1971. A makeshift prison is set up in a research lab, complete with cells, bars and surveillance cameras. For ... See full summary »
A convert to Islam sends the U.S. government a tape showing him in three nondescript storage rooms, each of which may contain a nuclear bomb set to detonate in less than a week. Helen Brody, an FBI agent in L.A., is tasked with finding the bombs while a CIA "consultant," known as H, interrogates the suspect who has allowed himself to be caught. The suspect, whose wife and children have left him and disappeared, seems to know exactly what the interrogation will entail. Even as H ratchets up the pressure, using torture over Brody's objection, the suspect doesn't crack. Should H do the unthinkable, and will Brody acquiesce? Is any Constitutional principle worth possible loss of life? Written by
Unthinkable raises a question which has been an issue for many people all over the world for a very long time, and especially since 9/11. This question is, is it ever justifiable to torture an individual to save the lives of many? And if the answer is yes, how far can you go?
This issue is indeed a very sensitive subject and I think it takes guts for any filmmaker to put it out there in the open like Gregor Jordan did. Add to that the clever fact that he doesn't actually make a choice, but rather lets the audience decide on whatever they want to think and feel, and you have a pretty gutsy and controversial concept.
In a nutshell, this film is about a man of American descent who has become a Muslim and has now, as an act of terrorism, planted 3 nuclear bombs in 3 major American cities which will go off in four days. Screenwriter Peter Woodward made some very tactical decisions considering the characters in the story. They are all somewhat stereotypical, but this is no bother because they're all there for a reason. Carrie-Anne Moss, as an FBI investigator, represents the conscience, the sensitivity and the struggle to make the right decision. Samuel L. Jackson is her polar opposite; the brutal, rational, stone cold "interrogator" who does what he does because he's the only one who can and willing to do it. The means he is willing to go to in order to get his subject to talk are almost as unwatchable as they are unthinkable. This is quite possibly the most gruesome film I have ever seen, but that mostly has to do with the fact that the things you see are in fact very real. This stuff does happen, and it's way harder to stomach than any slasher horror movie because it sucks you in emotionally. Intelligence agencies and secret services the world over DO use these techniques, whether we like to believe it or not.
All of this sounds like a great opportunity to address a major issue and stimulate people to really think about it, doesn't it? One would like to think so, alas there is one big problem: bad writing. As hard as they try, the filmmakers do not, at any point, manage to evoke sympathy on either side of the fence. Not with the terrorist, for the complete lack of background and motivation, but neither with the people who try to stop him from executing his horrible plans that could claim the lives of millions of people. Especially Carrie-Anne Moss' character, Brody, is quite a pain in the butt because even though her struggle is understandable, quite simply because she's a decent human being, she comes off as kind of naive because she from a professional point of view is unwilling to sacrifice the life of one to save millions. Her constant interference gradually becomes increasingly annoying, up to the point that you just want her to get out of the way. However, Jackson's character H. turns out to be such a volatile psycho that you almost start to feel sorry for the terrorist! There is one scene in particular which throws you off so badly that you really don't know what to think anymore. I'll only say that it involves the terrorist's wife, and as much as I would like to warn you, I don't want to give any spoilers, but you can take it as a warning anyway... It'll make your skin crawl.
The rest of the characters are about as lively and relevant as cardboard-cut-outs, I've already forgotten about most of them, but they don't really matter to the story anyway. However, all of this could have still turned into a decent film, if it wasn't for one major flaw: the horrible ending. It's so incredibly hollow and unsatisfactory that it leaves you wondering why the hell you just spent an hour and a half watching a man being tortured, if there was absolutely no point to it?! It could have been worthwhile if only the filmmakers had any resolution to offer, but there is none. Why did the terrorist do what he did? We don't know. Did the agents accomplish anything? Not really. So what's the point? There is no point. It's just 90 minutes of torture, bad decisions and failure. That's it.
Overall, it's not all bad. There is some really good dialogue and despite aforementioned flaws and inconsistencies in the script, there are a few really good scenes which do involve one into the minds of the people on screen. The actors do the best they can with what they're given, Samuel L. Jackson is as reliable as ever and Carrie-Anne Moss is convincing in her role, which makes me sad to think that since The Matrix and Memento, she hasn't really had any memorable roles, and that's too bad because she is a good actress. Michael Sheen as the terrorist is good too, though it's hard for him to make his character a 3-dimensional human being because the writers offered him no history or character development whatsoever, but he definitely makes his character's "in-the-moment emotions" work from scene to scene.
So, final conclusion. I wouldn't really dissuade anyone from watching this film, you now know what to expect and it does offer some interesting food for thought here and there, but you should really understand that this film is pretty challenging, mentally as much as physically. And don't watch this if you're under 18. Seriously.
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