Praising the Unthinkable

by Dave on May 28, 2010

in Movies,Politics

unthinkable-movie-poster When considering all the embarrassing and damnable schlock that ends up on $10-per-head theater screens each and every last one of a given year’s 52 weeks (to the point parents end up having to take out payday loans on the web to keep their kids in Pixar flicks)  I find it tragic when a film of merit ends up banished straight to DVD. The term itself is a condemnation. In the minds of, well, everyone, “Straight to DVD” is actually longhand for “crap”. I was reminded recently that this is not always the case.

It may instead be politics or lack of a studio’s faith in a film’s potential profitability that sees a quality flick cast into the sin bin. It’s big business, after all. I think in the case of 2010’s Unthinkable it was a combination of both. After weighing the options surrounding public political opinion, a million dollar marketing budget and the difficult subject matter – I can’t say the powers that be made a bad business decision. So many will miss this smart, extremely well-written (save for some obligatory explication-type military dialogue), well-acted, gory and thrilling… thriller. Perhaps I can remedy that for a few of you. And if you’re not yet convinced – Superman’s in it too!

We need a synopsis here, but I’ll keep it quick and spoiler-free. Watch the trailer above for more of the the major bulletpoints. An Iowa-born American, ex-military, sends out a video claiming he’s placed nuclear bombs in three major cities set to go off in three days. All the agencies spring into action and converge on a high school gym where Younger a.k.a. “Yousef” is being held and interrogated. Samuel L. Jackson, Carrie Ann Moss and Michael Sheen earn their paychecks. A mysterious professional fingernail-puller, played convincingly by Mr. Jackson, is added to the mix and everyone begins to butt heads. Here’s an example of an exchange which I’m blatantly inventing – but it’s still pretty accurate:

“Don’t torture him! It’s bad. Take the bag off his head, Mr. Abu Ghraib. We’re human beings and Americans. We’re above this barbaric, medieval practice. What’s next – black plague and a jousting tournament?”

Actually, there’s going to be about 10 million less Americans able to stand around, patting themselves on the back like you’re doing right now if we don’t get this traitorous, bearded whackadoo to tell us where the 3 bombs are in the next 72 hours. So there’s that, Garafalo.”

And… scene. That dynamic is the crux of what I love about this movie. The peacenik FBI agent is horrified that any kind of interrogation is happening, let alone the creative style that Jackson’s “H” brings to the gymnasium. But we also see H as a family man, loving father and generally likeable guy who honestly believes he is doing his duty for God and country. So who is right and who is wrong? To what ends is it reasonable to travel to save lives before we lower ourselves to the level of a terrorist. And is it appropriate for one gym full of people to get to decide for 10 million oblivious citizens who are also one step away from becoming radioactive dust?

unthinkable-movie-2010 The great vengeance and furious anger of Uncle Sam

I mentioned the quality of the writing before and Peter Woodward (son of Edward “The Equalizer”) has crafted a story which bucks the political drivel we’re used to being spoonfed by Hollywood and will cause you to have to think hard about how much is too much. Alternately, if you enjoy being spoonfed might I suggest Matt Damon in Green Zone which deserves to have a sin bin all to itself – which is then steam rolled like a pile of post-Pope picture tearing Sinead O’Connor DVDs. And then doused in kerosene. And then set ablaze. With Matt Damon strapped down, also inside of the bin. So yeah, really fucking hated Green Zone.

I implore you to seek the Unthinkable out and watch it. Watch it all the way through until the last second before the credits roll. You may find your usual moral high ground highly unstable in those final moments. It’s a smart, engaging and challenging film which deserves a wider audience. And thus ends my popcorn Jihad.

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May 28, 2010 at 12:40 pm

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Detroit Velvet Smooth from Moncton June 2, 2010 at 7:02 am

Um. I don’t want to be a stickler, but I am pretty sure there are 52 weeks in a year.

Dave Pye June 2, 2010 at 9:37 am

Go ahead and… stickle. You are correct, sir. I was obviously very distracted by Carrie Ann Moss while writing this last week.

Ana Molly June 13, 2010 at 3:08 am

I really did enjoy the movie but do not believe this case could ever happen or play out as it did. The writer gives our government way too much credit in thinking that there are people who would rather ***SPOILER ALERT*** decide the fate for 10 million people than see “innocent” people die. I put innocent in quotes because those innocents will most likely follow in the footsteps before them. The act that we think is “unthinkable” has probably already been done to save countless unknowing lives. We are completely oblivious to what the government is doing and for good reason. I don’t care who you are but if you had to choose between a handful of “innocent” people or 10 million lives of women, children, neighbors, family and friends you and I both know which you would pick. I was actually very disappointed by this movie as it left a sour taste in my mouth by the end, and not because of Samuel’s work who I may add did an amazing job acting his part. For me, I like to think of our government as the superman of the world no matter who is running it. And the moment I think that it could be anything less I start to lose faith in our country altogether. This movie made that happen because they decided to take the high road then stoop down to that of our enemies. I can see why this movie went straight to DVD, it was a good movie with good acting but I never want to have the feeling I had after watching it ever again, the feeling of being helpless and hopeless.

Edward N. Haas July 6, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Edward N. Haas here in Haaswood, Louisiana! I am a 74 year old country gentleman type and the author of 18 self-published books which few people read. In 1990, I published a pamphlet in which I described an incident extremely similar to the one which serves as the focal point of “The Unthinkable”. As in the movie, my story described a terrorist couple with 6 instead of 2 children, and it was together that the husband and wife planted a nuclear weapon in New York City set to explode in 24 hours. Having captured them at the airport as they tried to leave, the government agents first try torturing them to get them to reveal the location of the bomb. When that failed for 12 hours, the agents turned to actually torturing the 6 children one at a time, and, as they suspected it would, that eventually caused the couple to break and to reveal the bomb’s location. Awfully similar, no?!

Dave July 7, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Mr. Haas – methinks you may have a point!

jazzy July 17, 2010 at 5:34 pm

I have got to check this out

David Finnegan September 13, 2010 at 6:45 am

Just seen the movie last night.
My moral high ground has been severely fractured.
Like most of us I am appalled by the use of torture, but having watched ‘Unthinkable’ I just dont know anymore.
I still think the use of torture is appalling ,but is killing a few to save millions not preferrable?
Its that old conundrum, I you could go back and murder the infant Adolf Hitler would you?
You would change the course of history and probably save millions, but you would be murdering an infant.

Great movie. Everyone should see this movie.

Simon November 14, 2010 at 3:44 pm

I personally loved it. Well written, and acted. I also believe that the movie should have made theater instead of coming out on dvd.
As far as the plot, well if I put my self in the shoes of the actress Carrie Ann Moss in the one scene where Samuel asks her to go and get the children, I would get them in a hurry, as far as torturing them myself, I can not. I couldn’t torture the terrorist my self anyway, but I will have no problem giving them to the tortures.
David, a couple of children is better than millions of people!

Zan September 2, 2012 at 8:07 pm

I’ve seen this movie. It was very hard to watch. The issues presented and the slashing of basic human morals for the sake of saving millions of lives was very difficult to watch. But where I finally screamed “STOP!” was where they were calling for the possible torture of the children. That is insane! No way will I ever condone the torture of innocent children. That should never be considered, and it is truly downright, indisputably unthinkable!!

@David Finnegan: Hitler was a monster! His entire party and all who shared his ideology were all monsters! If they were removed from power before the countless murders and atrocities that they caused, that would have undoubtedly saved countless lives. Still, advocating the killing of an infant is sick! Go back in time and change ideology instead. Go back in time and teach Germans to restabilize their economy without scapegoating Jews, non-Aryans, homosexuals, and those in poor health. Go back in time and fight to uplift humanity, morally and intellectually, without destroying innocent lives.

Zan September 2, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Torture is no doubt still being used till this day. Don’t foolishly compare it’s use by U.S. government agencies or other agencies that try to fight crimes that of nazism.
David, you’re removing it from its context. In this film, you have people using admittedly highly immoral means to SAVE millions of lives. Hitler and his sick followers were on the other hand using sadist and unfathomably sick means to murder and destroy millions upon millions of lives.
Focus your analysis on the movie’s context, please.

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