Director: Gregor Jordan
Writer: Peter Woodward
Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Carrie-Anne Moss and Michael Sheen
How far would you go?
Imagine this – you are facing the threat of nuclear bomb going off. 50 million people, including yourself, your family, your close ones will die if that happens. How far would you go in order to prevent this?
„Unthinkable” is not trying to give viewer the answer for that question, but it shows terrific arguments for both sides. Here is the situation – terrorist, American citizen, Muslim named Younger (Michael Sheen) placed 3 bombs in unknown, big American cities. The military captures him, yet no one knows his demands or where the bombs are. H. (Samuel L. Jackson) a specialist who interrogates and tortures people is appointed to the case, along with sensitive, empathetic FBI agent (Carrie Anne moss) who finished law school and follows the rules. What happens next is basically a depiction of the interrogation and the progress of the situation, none of us would like to be in.
Few hours ago I was reading about Board of the Karneades. It's the hypothetical situation in which if there are two people on the floating board, one can kill the other to keep himself alive. Yes, it is a homicide, but the author is not going to be punished, because excusing state of emergency gives „innocence”. Then I was reading that life equals life, that if that situation happened on the climbing line in the mountains, and one person who would be the highest and had 5 people lower on the line would see the line becoming weaker and weaker that person would actually have the right to cut off those 5 people under her and essentially kill them to save herself. That confuses and outrages me, and as much as I don't agree, that it is how it is seen by the law – state of emergency allows awful things to happen. But I think life doesn't equal life. If you can trade two lives for 50 million lives what would you do? Nobody can say. Nobody who has not been in such situation can answer for sure what would he or she do.
On the other hand, we have United Nations Convention Against Torture which states "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture". But we all know it happened many times in the past and that it is happening maybe even as I am typing these words. Like with death penalty, the debate is endless and even though such practices like torture or death penalty are forbidden in many countries, biggest and most influential countries, even so there are still supporters. It's because of that line, the line of what is at stake – how much evil can we witness as noble human beings? The treaties, the law, the punishments we need them. But what happens when enough is at the stake? Theory and reality are very different things. Laws are broken every day, even the most important ones. And we can never know how exactly the authorities work and how righteous and law abiding their actions are. How many innocent people were subjected to torture? And how many times because of the torture information which led to the prevention of horrible events were obtained? We can never know.
But the movie portrays people who are facing such events and as a movie viewer I was thrilled how refreshing it was. Here we have a terrorist who is actually an American citizen. Here we have a terrorist who actually has reasonable demands. We have a torturer who gives reasons for his actions, which personally did not outrage me but made me think. That's far from what I've seen in eg. “Rendition” and even “24”. It's definitely a thought provoking movie, I don't think it justifies torture but it leaves the answer to the audience, but even if we answer we can never be sure of our actions.
The movie is rather modest, there are no typical Hollywood tricks, big sets, super modern interiors. I was very surprised when it, basically, went straight to DVD in USA. I'm a huge Michael Sheen fan so I was following the release of that movie and I was completely shocked. Such big names in the cast, after all. But the movie is very difficult one, the psychological play depicted in it is very tiring, forces you to think. Some of the scenes are hard to watch, now I don't know how accurate the methods were, but everything looked painfully realistic, precisely because the movie has nothing that can be seen in usual action movies about agents and ticking bombs – no loud, fast-paced music by famous composers, no breathtaking cinematography, no insane technology. It is basically just one man versus another.
The cast is great – Samuel L. Jackson was a very good choice. He looks like suburban dad but he is capable of doing anything, he is interesting but he came off as a bit confused and lost in the part. There is too little we know about his character, too little to evaluate his motives. All we see is his actions, but as I pointed out his arguments are often valid. Carrie Anne Moss is quite good, she is convincing, although I don't think she will ever be someone other than Trinity. And Michael, well Michael can apparently do anything. I mean this. He can be prime minister, obsessive compulsive architect, werewolf in love, terrorist. That man is unlucky and so am I as his fan – 3 years ago big nominations missed him for “The Queen”, two years ago he was inches away from finally getting something with “Frost/Nixon”, last year for reason unknown to me “The Damned United” which got universal acclaim was ignored during award season. And now this, another one of his outstanding performances goes straight to DVD in USA and another movie he is doing is for HBO. Now that is unthinkable.
There are very different opinions about this film floating around, but mine is going to be a positive one. Some people say it justifies torture. I think it doesn't – you have to think for yourself. The movie is interesting, keeps you on the edge of seat, surprises you and actually makes you think. And the acting is fantastic. Those are all the signs of a good movie.