Unthinkable (2010) Gregor Jordan

A nuclear bomb expert now turned Muslim extremist Young (Michael Sheen) sends a video to the CIA. He claims to have planted three nuclear bombs in three cities and if the President does not meet his demands (a public statement he is going to move armed forces from the Middle East) they are going to detonate within two days. FBI agent Helen Brody (Carrie-Anne Moss) is the head of investigating the location of the bombs. The military captured Young and have hired a shadow figure/interrogator named “H” (Samuel L. Jackson) to get the location from Young using any and all means.

This movie is an extended “what would you do” when it comes to torture. Jordan tries to lay out the perfect “ticking time bomb” scenario and repeatedly asks you how far you would be willing to go to get information. The levels of torture go up from approved methods like waterboarding up to beatings, to amputations, to electro shock, to mutilation, and all the way to torturing Young’s family (the titular UNTHINKABLE). At each stage Sam Jackson all but stares into the camera and asks “Should I keep going?”

The Ticking Bomb Scenario (also known as the Jack Bauer Scenario) is a favorite among people who argue for torture. Most everyone would agree that torture is not an accurate means of getting information from a suspect and that other means can be used to much greater effect. Torture is barbaric, goes against our core beliefs, and again, doesn’t seem to yield as good information as other intelligence gathering/investigation would yield. So the situation has to be altered in order to be more acceptable for people to swallow. Much like Unthinkable, the situation gets more elaborate and nonsensical the more you go on. What if you were on a timer? What if there was a nuclear bomb that was about to go off? How about three? How about four!? What if we had the person who made and planted them AND had plenty of time to torture/interrogate as to the whereabouts of the bombs? What if he acted alone so there is no chance of co-conspirators moving the bombs or detonating prematurely if the detect police presence? Do you see how far the writers already have to bend backwards to make this the slightest bit credible?

Even with all that, I could still spend all day dissecting all the plot holes of this movie. Why did Young surrender himself to the authorities? This is not explained. It could be argued it was to confront his oppressors but that just doesn’t fly. What if the torture did work? His overall plans would have been ruined. To make Americans feel ashamed about torture. No, since Young was squirrelled away in some dark hole where no one knew about him. The real answer is they did it for plot convenience. How can this guy make four nuclear bombs? Oh (the movie answers) he is a nuclear bomb expert who turned into a Muslim extremist, stole 18 pounds of nuclear materials as well as millions of dollars from Iranian terrorists. Oooooooooookay, I respond, then why wasn’t every intelligence agency keeping a very close eye on this person who was living with his wife and children in suburban LA? I mean, you would think you would keep tabs on people that have the means and the motive to make and use a nuclear bomb right? I think we would notice this guy shipping 18 pounds of nuclear material, making four bombs, and setting them up all across the country. “Uhhhhhhhh”, the writer replies, “the reason for that is…we wouldn’t have a movie then if people acted in a rational way.” Young then gives his demands. He wants the President to make a public address stating he wants to move troops out of the Middle East. Everyone shoots down that idea because we don’t negotiate with terrorists blah blah blah. Hey, how bout this? How about you stage a fake press conference in which you have the President make this address and then play this for him on TV? You could get some top notch filmmakers to make it seem genuine. No? Oh that would make too much sense. I could go on but you get the gist. The Ticking Bomb Scenario is a myth, and any attempt to construct one reveals how truly implausible it really is.

Now for as much as I just dissected this movie I can’t say I hated it. I was interested in what was happening throughout and it doesn’t hurt to have people like Sam Jackson and Michael Sheen delivering your over the top dialog. And I suppose you could argue this movie does provoke thought on the subject even though it is ham fisted. I know a lot of people are going to be put off by the fact there are many scenes of torture in this movie. While there is a lot of torture, we don’t really see much on camera. That being said, I have heard many complain that it is too intense.

As far as direct-to-video fare goes, this is one of the better entries. The movie is expertly produced with a decent script (okay riddled with holes but not annoyingly bad), and all around good acting. Ultimately this comes down to the taste of the person potentially renting this movie. This movie could be too intense or too preachy a subject for people to spend a night watching. I suppose I’m being somewhat nice because these DTV movies usually suck and this is competently done. So take that for what it is.

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