The most suspenseful thriller of the year explores just how far we will go to protect ourselves and our country. When a nuclear expert-turned-extremist (Michael Sheen, Underworld) plants devices in three separate cities, the country's counter-terrorism force springs into action and captures him. But the location of his bombs remains a mystery. With time running out, FBI agent Helen Brody (Carrie-Anne Moss, Disturbia) agrees to work alongside a mysterious interrogator known only as "H" (Samuel L. Jackson, Lakeview Terrace), whose ruthless methods get results. But a power struggle develops between Brody, "H', and the terrorist, and what happens next is unbelievable and -ultimately-Unthinkable!
Unthinkable will give people of all political persuasions plenty to argue about. A terrorist named Arthur Younger (Michael Sheen, Frost/Nixon) has planted nuclear bombs in three American cities, then allowed himself to be arrested. The government, desperate to find these bombs, turns Younger over to a man known only as H (Samuel L. Jackson), who will use any means to extract information from Younger, despite the protests of FBI agent Helen Brody (Carrie-Anne Moss, Memento), who argues that torture doesn't produce viable data. Though Unthinkable is driven by this debate, the plot moves forward propulsively, never getting bogged down in rhetoric, and it carefully grounds this fantasy scenario (Younger is to real terrorists as Hannibal Lecter is to real serial killers) in realistic textures and details. It helps that the cast is crammed with talented characters actors, including Martin Donovan (The Opposite of Sex), Stephen Root (NewsRadio), and a lot of faces you'll recognize, even if you don't know their names. More importantly, Unthinkable gives weight to both perspectives and doesn't pull its punches about what torture entails. The final moment will provoke the most debate: does it bring the argument to a conclusion, or are the filmmakers just picking the most flamboyant ending? --Bret Fetzer
Engaging Commentary with Director Gregor Jordan
Includes Extended Version of the film with Alternate Ending
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Before describing this movie any further, I need to be clear that if you have ANY difficulty watching graphic portrayals of a man being tortured...you will definitely have issues with this one. Whether you can stand to watch the movie or not, at least think about what levels of torture you would find acceptable to save lives. Not every single detail of the torture is shown but there is enough to be quite graphic, along with the screams of a man in deep pain. It is very easy to imagine exactly what is being done...even when it isn't shown.
Helen Brody, played by Carrie-Anne Moss, balances out H's commitment to full scale torture. She is horrified by how the terrorist is treated but also has to question her values as time goes on.
When the movie ended, I confess that I said, "Wait! Is that the ending? They left it like THIS?!"That ought to tell you that this isn't one of those movies where every last detail is nicely explained and packed in a fine, neat ending with a moral or message with a capital "M". You aren't pounded over the head with any meaning. However, after I got over my initial disappointment (after all, I'd watched all those torture scenes and that is NOT my cup of tea), I started to realize how the ending made sense.
My take is that this movie is meant to get people thinking how far they would be willing to go to potentially save lives. Also at stake: how useful is torture in getting the truth out of the tortured? What toll does it take on those who are torturers? How do people who have a strong distaste of certain types of torture react when they have to question their deepest beliefs?
In spite of my strong reaction to the ending, this movie did leave me thinking about it for days so that could be reason enough to see it. Samuel L. Jackson gives a very strong performance and the woman who plays his wife (can't recall the name of that actress) has one powerful moment where I believe she makes Helen Brody realize that life is far more complex than Brody ever realized. I may not be remembering these words perfectly but Brody doesn't hide her disgust when she asks H's wife something like "How can you justify what he does? How can you accept him?" The wife explains her side of things and Brody is forced to think beyond "good" and "evil" and truly wonder what needs to be done to keep the country safe. At least, she starts down the path of doubt.
I related strongly to the characters and wish I hadn't assumed that the ending would be so pat. If you want a suspense movie that makes you think, try this one. If you like to know exactly "what happens next?" the ending may leave you feeling let down. It left me feeling that way. But the movie still haunted me.
Not only have I watched this film that much but I have had most of my friends watch it.
I love the middle ground in this film! You can see what the female officer is saying by in humane treatment. However......when so many lives are at stake ......is it better to let one person be tortured then to let millions die?
I also love the reality of the show and the situation. I think this situation has, or could happen......what would you do? And at what cost?
What is humanity?
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