DVD Review: Unthinkable
My experience with direct-to-video movies tells me that they almost always fit into one of two criteria: they suck or they got screwed over. Unthinkable is a shocking and suspenseful film that falls in with the latter. It was never going to make a major splash at the box office, but it had all the makings of becoming a buzz-worthy release had its small-time distributer, Senator Entertainment, not gone belly up, exiling it to straight-to-DVD status and effectively killing any would-be buzz.
Unthinkable is a movie that takes the viewer on an introspective roller coaster ride and forces us to think about whose perspective we would take in the interrogation of a terrorist who claims to nuke three American cities if his demands are not met. On one side is a demented torture expert (Samuel L. Jackson) who will stop at nothing to find out where these bombs are located. On the other is Carrie-Ann Moss as a FBI agent who points out that torture is unconstitutional.
Jackson and Moss go head-to-head in a battle that pits the values our country was founded upon against the lives of thousands of American people. Martin Sheen, in potentially controversial role, stars as the Muslim terrorist whose demands include the U.S. government cutting all ties with Islamic Middle Eastern countries.
What makes the movie really interesting is that it is so objective. While some may argue that the film is too liberal, there might also be some liberals who think aspects of the film is pro-torture. Speaking of the torture, very much is suggested but very little is shown. While we don’t see anything as graphic as we do in the torture scene in Body of Lies, for example, those with vivid imaginations can visualize far worse from what is suggested.
All three leads turn in exceptional performances and the characters who take on the roles of “protagonist” and “antagonist” are interchangeable based on the scene and your own personal beliefs. Sheen is a terrorist, but he is being inhumanely tortured. While Moss is trying to do what is morally and constitutionally right, she is simultaneously putting our people at risk by sympathizing with Sheen’s character. Although Jackson is sadistic and he even compromises the safety of Sheen’s wife and kids, he’s still doing what needs to be done to protect the American people. But how far is too far?
Although the script succeeds in providing all the necessary intensity as the clock continues to tick, the writer frequently underestimates the audience’s ability to follow along with the narrative. Characters frequently say things like “that’s in four days!” when we are shown a shot of the bomb with its set-to-explode date and time blinking, right after we see a title pop up explaining what day it is. Small details, I know, but these are the things that hold back a good narrative from being a great one.
While the film’s ending left me wanting much more, that can be explained by the fact that a more satisfying ending was ready to shoot but the money ran out before it could be filmed. As it stands, make sure you watch the “extended version” of the movie on the DVD because that version contains an ending that is more complete and fulfilling (or upsetting, depending on how you look at it) than that of the “original version.”
Note: Unthinkable will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on June 15th, 2010.
RIYL: The Kingdom, Rendition, Dr. Strangelove.