It’s not hard to see why Unthinkable went straight to video. Australian director Gregor Jordan makes a pig’s ear of the movie by going head on for shock value without bothering to give the drama any real substance or humanity.
Jordan clearly aimed to make a provocative movie that questions the use of torture as an interrogation method and challenges viewers to answer the question -’How far would you be prepared to go to save your country?’
On paper it has the makings of an intriguing and thought-provoking movie which explains how he was able to attract an impressive cast. Despite their best efforts they can’t salvage this turkey.
Michael Sheen plays Yusuf Atta Mohammed aka Steven Arthur Younger, an American Muslim who claims to have planted nuclear bombs in three U.S. cities that will be detonated unless American troops are withdrawn from all Muslim countries. Samuel L. Jackson plays ’H', a black-ops agent assigned as the interrogator and he is given carte-blanche to use whatever methods he deems fit. Carrie-Anne Moss is Agent Helen Brody, the leader of a FBI counter-terrorism team.
At first it seems that Agent Brody is going to be the moral heart of the movie in contrast to H’s barbarity and routine sadism. “This is unconstitutional” she wails to anyone who is listening but her protests fall on deaf ears as it becomes clear that the president himself has given the authority to break Yusuf using whatever means are necessary. She winds up taking a knife to Yusuf herself when the unimaginative FBI tactics falter.
We first see ‘H’ as a caring family man but in his working role he resorts to ruthless methods to try to make Yusuf reveal where the bombs are planted. He chops off a couple of fingers for starters and chirpily applies the kind of notorious techniques used in the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp.
Yusuf is articulate, intelligent and deliberately gets arrested knowing that he will face this kind of brutal interrogation by the ‘infidels’. My hunch is that Sheen’s character takes some inspiration from John Walker Lindh, the all-American boy who converted to Islam and fought with the Taliban. The fact that it is an American citizen plotting against his own country plays on the fear factor of the ‘enemy within’ and makes us view his torture in a different light.
The tensions are raised when H proposes the ‘unthinkable’ of extending the torture to Yusuf’s wife and children. What do these four individuals matter when the lives of countless ‘innocent’ American citizens are at stake?
‘Unthinkable’ hints at underlying political or moral issues but fails miserably to address these controversial topics in any coherent or plausible manner. It ends up being little more than a horror show and if that was what I wanted I would have rented one of the Saw movies instead.