June 20, 2010
Review - " Unthinkable " - (on DVD) By Roland Hansen
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Directed by: Gregor Jordan
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Carrie-Anne Moss, Michael Sheen,
Stephen Root, Brandon Routh, Martin Donovan, Gil Bellows
The videotape rolls: “My name is Yusuf Mohammad, my former name is
Steven Arthur Younger, and I have planted three nuclear bombs across
the country. They will detonate unless my demands are met.” He then
points the camera at exhibit A, looking suspiciously like a nuclear
bombs with oh, I should say, about 4.5 pounds of uranium capable of
killing 10 million people. The bombs are due to go off in three days time.
We have two polar oposites both working toward the same goal of
finding these weapons. First, we have Agent Brody (Carrie-Anne Moss)
of the FBI. She’s the logical, calm side of counter terrorism.
Representing the hawks, so to speak, is H. (Samuel L. Jackson) who,
when we first meet him, is casually disarming and gaffer-taping two FBI
agents who have the audacity to knock at his door. The FBI have called
in H., you see, because Younger has willingly let himself be arrested so
as to face his enemy knowing full well the sort of interrogations he can
expect to have to endure. So, we have the nuclear scenario, the ticking
countdowns, the torture porn, and Muslim fanaticism.
The FBI and the military have all moved to a secure area, a high-school
gymnasium, where they present Younger in a holding tank, centre-
stage. He is being casually worked over by an army interrogator: Sleep
deprivation, hot and cold torture, a bit of the ol’ psychological stuff, but
nothing untoward. It’s still too much for peacenik Brody, though, who
cites the Geneva Convention and other do-gooder citizens rights. As
the song goes, she ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. H. steps in, muttering something like “amateurs” as he goes, and for his opening
gambit cuts off two of Younger’s fingers. “You have to make them believe you have no limits”, he tells the horrified onlookers
as he straps electrodes to Younger’s private and presumably shrivelled parts. Simply shouting the witness into submission is
not going to work here.
Brody and H. team up in a good-cop/bad-cop
way, both of them trying to find the location of
the bombs. Younger, though, is ex-military and
a tough nut to crack. When not gently
interrogating Younger, Agent Brody instructs
the rest of her team to go on any clues they
might have – the wife, perhaps, or the
locations on the tape. The clock is ticking…
Unthinkable is a well-written movie that works
despite some average direction. For example,
the characters, despite being senior officials
in their chosen fields, speak that dumbed-
down language that we so often see in movies.
They constantly feel the need to spell out
exactly what it is that they’re doing, for fear
that we, the viewer, might miss something
important or technical. At one point, Agent
Brody unrolls a map - a giant map is always
handy in such situations- and tries to deduce
the locations of the bombs. “New York, I would think”, she says, “And on the West Coast perhaps LA. In the middle, maybe
Chicago or Dallas.” The map: Worth its weight in gold again.
Michael Sheen, formerly seen primarily as an impersonator in movies such as Frost/Nixon, The Queen and The Damned
United, is the pick of the actors here. His Younger is a man with conviction, a man with the destinies of millions of people in
his hands, and an unflinching drive to
remove the troops from Islamic nations.
Jackson revels in his role of
torturer/interrogator — think Olivier’s Szell
in Marathon Man, times a hundred. Flaws
or no flaws, I was intrigued from start to
finish. This is the movie the failed Rendition
could have and should have been.