Blu-ray Review: Unthinkable (2010)

Now Available to Own

Throughout the Bush administration, the official position remained that the United States doesn't condone torture nor does it utilize torture... especially on the country's own soil. Yet as we've discovered in countless documentaries, news reports and tell-all political works of nonfiction, to maintain national security and to prevent another full scale terrorist attack, things like rendition flights and water-boarding have taken place.

And for those of us who don't work in the realm of federal law enforcement, the White House and our U.S. Military, it's impossible to fathom not just making these decisions on how to extract information and what is in fact deemed torture but also all of the ethical and moral questions raised about the end justifying the means.

However, in director Gregor Jordan's shocking film Unthinkable written by Peter Woodward, viewers are asked to examine these issues in a no holds barred approach as we discover that an American citizen, Iraqi war veteran and explosives expert has turned into an extremist, planing three nuclear bombs in three undisclosed urban areas of unidentified American cities that are all set to detonate within a matter of days.

As one of the top special agents working the Los Angeles Counter Terrorism field office, FBI Agent Helen Brody (Carrie-Anne Moss) assumes that she and her colleagues will be heading up the investigation but the feds are in for a major surprise when they're ushered to another location where they're told that not only is the military in charge of the entire case but that they've already caught the terrorist played by Michael Sheen.

When it quickly becomes apparent that Sheen isn't going to crack under normal methods of hot and cold water, loud noises etc., the military brings an independent contractor (Samuel L. Jackson) whose tactics are so heinous that no American agency will claim him as one of their own. A man with a long list of enemies who is always under governmental protection and saddled with an alias, in Unthinkable, the interrogator tells Helen that she can call him H.

Impressed by her integrity in wanting to build rapport rather than violently attack the man in custody, H tells Helen that he'll work alongside her, offering her the chance to talk to the terrorist in between his “sessions” that are so explicit that Jordan's film ultimately seems to have much more in common with torture porn films like Saw rather than traditional intelligent political thrillers.

Fairly soon into the work, we realize that H also chose Helen for cynical psychological reasons as he eventually states that if she will let him continue with escalated action and even give him the order to raise it to an unimaginable level than human beings as a species are capable of anything.

Unfortunately for the viewer, this main moral message of the film along with of course the underlying premise of where one draws the line in trying to save ten million citizens from dying in agony kicks in within the first act of the movie, finally making the rest of it a cinematic litmus test of just how much we can stomach when it comes to Jackson going all medieval on Sheen.

Furthermore Jordan botches the important questions raised in the film's finale when for a moment it seems as if Unthinkable were about to turn into an action movie as they try to locate the nuclear weapons. And while I can't wholeheartedly recommend the movie as it's ultimately a docudrama on torture more than anything else, luckily the Blu-ray offers an extended version with a far more concrete conclusion that gives viewers a better payoff, if -- that is -- you're still watching by the time the final credits roll.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.