Steven Arthur Young (Michael Sheen) is an American whose beliefs are more in line with the fanatical sect of Islam more than the true teachings of Islam. Steven uses his experience in the US military to aide him in creating three nuclear bombs which is as hidden in three different US cities. In order for FBI agent Helen Brody (Carrie Anne Moss) to find the locations of the bombs she must work alongside an interrogator known as H (Samuel L. Jackson). Listed as a “special consultant” for the CIA, H has his own methods of interrogation that are not officially condoned by the US government. As H tries to get Steven to reveal the location of the bombs, Helen struggles with the human rights and constitutional laws that are being violated.
Unthinkable ultimately ask the question are the rights of one more important than the safety of many? The film wants to be both a tense thriller and a thought provoking commentary on the US handling of terrorist prisoners. Unfortunately the film does not succeed at being either. The issues being raised are nothing new and neither is the way the film presents it. To be honest, the television show 24 has tackled this theme on several occasions and has executed it far better.
In one of his earlier films, Buffalo Soldier, director Gregor Jordan demonstrated that he could handle the grey areas that often come with military life. Unfortunately he does not have a strong script to work with this time around. Unthinkable’s script is very uneven throughout and, at points, the dialogue is atrocious. An example of this comes in a key scene where H says “what I have to do…is unthinkable.” The lines comes off unintentionally funny considering that everything H has done to that point would be consider extremely excessive. The cast tries their best to sell the material as it is written but there is only so much they can do.
The poor script leads to the biggest problem with Unthinkable, the lack of character development. All of the characters, with the exception of H and Steven, constantly flip flop on their positions regarding torture. There comes a point in the film where you wish that they would each take a stance (either for or against) and stick with it. Now some may argue that this is designed to show the moral conflict inside them but I simply do not buy it. To have Helen constantly struggle with this is one thing, but it is downright insulting to have the official who is the closest link to the president, and who hired H based on his past results, change his mind the way he does. Especially, considering the extreme measures he has allowed H to take to this point.
Is the film in favour or against the use of brutality when it comes to interrogation? Are the rights in the Constitution more important that the lives of a whole country? These are left for you to decide. Frankly, I would recommend that you just rent a few seasons of 24 instead.