Movie Review: UNTHINKABLE
Once in a while a movie comes along that would really take you on its grip and blow you away. Unthinkable was one such movie.
We actually took the movie without knowing what it was about usually we would try to find out as much as we can about the movie before watching it. But this time we were being lazy and didn’t bother. And it was a blessing that it happened that way or the film would have lost its beauty altogether.
Unthinkable was one of the few films that really caught my attention, one that actually evoked fear within me as I watched the plot unfold.
The film opened with an American Muslim man making a videotape of himself. In the video he said that he had planted 3 bombs in three separate US cities armed with nuclear explosives. The bomb according to him contained 4.5 lbs of nuclear explosives and are set to detonate within three days if his demands are not met though the man failed to mention what his demands were.
As soon as the video was broadcast in the local news the FBI was immediately set into motion assigning Special Agent Helen Brody (played by Carrie-Anne Moss) and her team to the case. Her team launched an investigation on the case but was stopped when they were called to report to a high school which was converted into a black site by the military. When they arrived at the location they found out that the suspect had been arrested. They found out the man’s as Yusuf (played by Michael Sheen) and that he was an American who converted to the Muslim faith when his parents were assigned in the Middle East.
A special interrogator was brought in to the site, known only to most of them as “H” (played by Samuel Jackson), to force Yusuf to reveal the exact location of the bombs. “H” immediately proceeded to do what he does best, telling the others to stay out of his way. And he quickly showed the others his capability and cruelty as he proceeded to torture the suspect starting with cutting off one of his fingers. Special Agent Brody quickly intervened stating that torture is against the law and that there are other ways they can employ to get the information they needed. But her superiors were also quick to tell her that “H” actions were sanctioned from the highest possible level of command.
“H” torture progressed rapidly and on several times Brody intervened against the orders of her superiors. “H” actually enjoyed the interruption giving play to the bad cop, good cop routine but Yusuf was also tough and would not give them any information whatsoever. “H” decided to allow Yusuf to rest a few minutes before continuing the torture…the intervals and moments of rests he knew would only heighten the pain of what he was going to do next. At these moments of rest, Brody would go to Yusuf and talk to him, coaxing him to simply give them the location of the bombs and he would be free to leave the country but Yusuf was steadfast in his beliefs. At one point Brody accused Yusuf that the bombs were fake and that there was no bomb at all. Yusuf pretended to give up and broke down in tears telling her that indeed there weren’t any bomb. He gave her an address to prove this but as a team gets to the location Yusuf pointed out their entry triggered a bomb that exploded in a nearby mall killing 53 people.
Angered at the deception Brody took a scalpel and started to cut Yusuf in the chest but the man was trained to resist torture and would not show any emotion. He justified his actions by comparing the number of Muslims killed by Americans in US occupied Muslim nations.
As the tension builds up within the film, with each torture gearing towards the more inhumane treatment, the thought provocation forces the audience to question if the means actually justifies the end. As Agent Brody pointed out, any information that they gathered from Yusuf would be because he was being tortured, and at such point a man would say anything to make his torturer stop. But Yusuf proved otherwise, he neither gave up or said anything.
After the explosion in the mall Yusuf then made known his demands – he would like the President of the United States to announce a cessation of support for “puppet governments” and dictatorships in Muslim countries and a withdrawal of American troops from all Muslim countries.
The group immediately dismisses that his demands would ever be met citing the US policy that the government does not negotiate with terrorists. Here the viewer is met with a dilemma. Yusuf’s demands were rational and at several levels justified. Even “H” agreed with his demand though he had a job to do. Considering the current state of events in the world today, the film is very relevant – Egypt had overthrown the 30 years reign of its dictator and now Libya is trying to do the same on Ghaddafi’s 41-year reign. Did the US government support these dictators? They did back Marcos up during his reign of 21 years? Those were question going through my mind at the time. Though to be completely honest I can answer the last question with a very positive “yes”.
Eventually, Yusuf’s wife and children were found and taken into custody by the military. His wife was taken to see Yusuf in order to evoke fear into the man, but he wouldn’t tell them the location of the bombs. In frustration, “H” grabbed the scalpel and slashed her neck in front of Yusuf and she died of blood lost.
Their last option, and one that Agent Brody adamantly refused to consider was to bring in Yusuf’s children, a boy and a girl. It took some convincing and a promise from “H” that he wouldn’t touch the children..just scare the crap out of the father…until finally Agent Brody gave her assent to the method. They took Yusuf out of the interrogation room to where he could see the room through a one-way mirror.
As he sat there his children were brought in to “H” inside the interrogation room. Tension began when “H” locked the door isolating himself and the children inside the room. As they proceeded to question Yusuf, his eyes never left the interrogation room. But he still refused to give them the location of the bombs….that is until “H” turned off the lights inside the interrogation room allowing them only a shadowy view of the inside. There they can see his shadow reaching for something on the table (where the scalpels were) and proceeded to advance on the children.
Yusuf went wild at this point and begged them to spare his children. The operatives present also became agitated as the sight and fearing for the lives of the children they started to break down the door to the interrogation room. This took some ample amount of time since the door was made of solid steel requiring them to use high powered guns on the door before they were able to break it down. At this point, Yusuf started giving out the location of the three bombs.
The operatives finally able to enter the interrogation room took the children away and forced “H” away. “H” went berserk for a while calling everyone all sorts of degradable names and when Agent Brody confronted him – he asked her if they found out the location of the 4th bomb. This is new to Brody considering that Yusuf said there were only 3 bombs. “H” told her that 16lbs of nuclear explosives were missing – 4.5lbs x 3 = 13.5lbs. C4 was used in the last bomb that exploded in the mall which means that they’re missing 2.5lbs nuclear explosives.
Brody realized “H” was right. The next frames showed the various bomb squads going to the different locations and disarming the bombs. At the last location as the agents were disarming one bomb, another bomb was shown hidden within the same location and as the first bomb was disarmed the other bomb exploded.
Here the viewer’s mind is set into motion — where does one’s humanity start and where does the safety of the many take precedence? Was it right to have to lose one’s humanity in exchange for the safety of many? Would it have been justified to kill another human being (even children) in order to safe millions? These are questions that the film put into our minds…and I honestly have no answer.