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Film: Unthinkable

Unthinkable is a 2010 thriller film starring Samuel L. Jackson, Carrie-Anne Moss and Michael Sheen.

An American Muslim man releases a tape claiming he has planted three nuclear weapons in three separate cities and will detonate them unless his demands are met for U.S. military withdrawal from the Middle East. The FBI agents looking for him are contacted by the military who say that they have found the terrorist. To get the information they have resorted to torturing him. With time running out they are forced to enlist "H" (Jackson), a radical "special interrogator" who will use any means to force the locations out of the terrorist. Moral dilemmas ensue as H goes further and further with the means at his disposal.

This film provides examples of:

  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The interrogator "H" specializes in this sort of "questioning."
  • Downer Ending: It ends with the terrorist confessing the locations of the three nuclear bombs he has hidden in three different cities in the US. In the extended version, an FBI bomb squad finds one of the bombs and defuses it and are all celebrating. Then the camera pans to a fourth bomb hidden in the same room which count downs to zero, before the screen fades to black.
  • Fingore: H begins by cutting off the tip of the terror suspect's finger and it is later shown that he has pulled out all of his fingernails.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: "H", the "hero" of the film, is an ex-Army interrogator who uses extreme methods to get a terrorist to talk, which go up to and include cutting off the man's fingers, electrocuting him, and killing his family in front of his face. His methods end up being viewed as crossing the Moral Event Horizon for the counter-terrorism unit assisting him, causing them to run interference.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: The movie dwells on this with debates on whether it is morally justified to torture a known terrorist and aspiring mass murderer to death to extract information on the whereabouts of several nuclear devices that he scattered across the United States and rigged to detonate, which would kill millions of people. While this "dilemma" will seem downright farcical to most people, a better case is presented when the interrogators are considering torturing the man's two (innocent) children. When the Wide-Eyed Idealist character is already responsible for the deaths of 53 people by trusting the terrorist at his word, she plays the trope horrifyingly straight when she openly voices her preference to let thousands of children all be killed to preserve the lives of his.
  • Papa Wolf: One of H's redeeming qualities - he seems to genuinely love his children and willing to go to great lengths to protect them - including taking prisoner and possibly planning to kill federal agents, as seen in the beginning of the movie. He does not extend this to other people's children, however.
  • Post-9/11 Terrorism Movie: The film focuses on the psychological toll that extreme interrogation techniques have on its practitioners, and whether or not it being a part of their job makes them "good" guys or not.
    • The movie deliberately takes no stand and remains ambiguous as to whether H was right - the viewer is free to form their own opinion on the relationship of ethical and moral values and extreme situations and whether the suspension of said values is justified. Unfortunately, the Extended Version of the movie thrashes said premise in just forty or so extra seconds - by showing, after the final scene where the children are led away by Brody, that the fourth bomb is indeed real. The screen fades to black as the timer reaches zero, so it is still somewhat ambiguous whether the bomb really explodes, but it seems to be strongly implied...thus pointing out that Younger indeed lied, and implicitly showing that The Extremist Was Right after all - had H tortured Younger's children, the man would have likely broken and the attack would have been prevented.
  • Title Drop: Towards the end of his interrogation, H, a torture expert working for the US military, says "What I am about to unthinkable".
  • Torture Porn: Nuclear bombs are set to go off, and it's up to Samuel L. Jackson to torture their whereabouts out of the man who planted them.
  • The Unfettered: "H", an interrogator who specializes in Cold-Blooded Torture. After he is set to work on a terrorist who claims to have planted nuclear bombs in several American cities, he at several points tells his handlers that it is important that his subject believe that he "has no limits." As it turns out, he really doesn't.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: He may be evil in his torture, but H is simply doing this for the betterment of the USA.
  • Western Terrorists: Steven Arthur Younger is a nuclear weapons expert and ex-military man who has converted to Islam and changed his named to Mohammed Yusuf Atta. He planted three nuclear bombs in three different US cities. The FBI and other agencies must get him to tell them where the bombs are - they achieve this by relying on a lot of Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique.
  • Wham Line: "Bring me the children."
  • Would Hurt a Child: Invoked by "H" to make the captured terrorist believe that the torture expert truly has no lines he wouldn't cross to get the information out of him that H needs to save the lives of millions. He brings in the terrorist's children and pretends to take them to a seperate room to torture them to death, which is enough to make his subject crack. H doesn't go through with it, but leaves it ambiguous whether he would really be prepared to do something that extreme.

UnstoppableFilms of the 2010sValentine's Day

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