Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique
"You are going to tell me what I want to know; it's just a matter of how much you want it to hurt."
"You're not going to get any information out of him if you just
ask. You gotta make him squeal a little!
For all intents and purposes, this is Cold-Blooded Torture
. Usually indicates that there is some kind of Time Bomb
hanging over the heroes' heads and the interrogator has decided that there isn't enough time to "play nice." Threats to kill will be made, firearms will be discharged. Sometimes done after someone has refused to believe an Empty Cop Threat
. Of course, anyone who does this is usually at least an Anti-Hero
to begin with. Also, if a suspect knows he only has to hold out for a certain length of time, torture will never work. Good thing Torture Always Works
In reality, torture is illegal
in many jurisdictions (however, that doesn't stop people, and doesn't mean the evidence gets tossed out in all nations), and its actual effectiveness is disputed, depending much on circumstances and individuals. In short, there's no real proof that it works effectively and dependably - it as likely that someone will tell you something just to make it stop as anything else, and while the "just make it stop" factor can in fact be countered by systems of threatening even worse retribution if the given information turns out to be false, it is still hardly 100% perfect. And it may turn out that the guy you're torturing legitimately does not have the information you need, but feeds you false info just to make it stop, so not only are you torturing someone who knows nothing, he's sending you on a wild-goose chase instead of staying silent. Someone truly dedicated to a cause may even view this technique as a sign that his enemies are weak or evil, thus enforcing his own convictions and making him more likely to refuse to cooperate. As well as this, even if it does work and the suspect is guilty and confesses, any halfway decent lawyer can get a confession coerced through torture ruled inadmissible, and any evidence found as a result of it "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree" and also inadmissible, or failing that overturn the conviction, meaning torture can even result in guilty people going free. Interrogation is often a long process over days or weeks, as well. Good luck stuffing that time into an hour TV show revolving around a bad guy bomb, though.
It would be especially problematic using evidence obtained through torture in the United States. The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits "Cruel and Unusual punishment." Statute Law, specifically 18 USC 1984, the Civil Rights act of 1869, specifically makes it a crime to violate someone's civil rights under color of law. US treaty obligations also cause problems, as they are a signatory to the "Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment," of 26 June 1987, and the use of torture is a violation of "The Laws and Customs of War
" as set forth in the (Fourth) Geneva Convention, which prohibits even unlawful combatants from being tortured. While executing unlawful combatants is legal under the Geneva Convention, torturing them, however, is not.
Things can get even more dangerous if you have a Vigilante Man
conducting the interrogation. As he is not part of a legal force to begin with, he is not restrained by the law. He is free to give cruel and unusual punishment, he does not need solid proof
to go after someone guilty, he does not need to respect people's rights, and there's no authority you can report him to. And if he is an Anti-Hero
, without a "Thou Shalt Not Kill
" principle, then things are even worse: he may kill you after you give him the name he needed to continue his search
See also: Exalted Torturer
, Torture Technician
, Torture Always Works
, Enhanced Interrogation Techniques
, and Mutilation Interrogation
, a subtrope that involves Fingore
Compare: Torture First, Ask Questions Later
, and Torture for Fun and Information
, when it's not just that you're torturing someone for information, but you're having a lot
of fun doing it, too. High-Altitude Interrogation
, where the interrogator would rather just threaten to drop someone from a great height.
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Anime and Manga
- Claire Stanfield, pissed off and in need of information, subjects a Smug Snake mook to this in Baccano!. Being dragged across railroad tracks from a moving train is not a pleasant way to die.
- Maiza proves to be just as scary an interrogator in the Light Novels - one technique he employs is gouging out the victim's eyes with their own severed fingers.
- Devilman main character tortures Monster of the Week demon to find out cure for Miki's poisoning in one episode of the seventies show.
- Sousuke from Full Metal Panic! uses this as his normal MO. He uses it to find out how a classmate got embarrassing pictures of Kaname by threatening to cut off a finger every time he refused to cooperate. Oddly enough, it usually works when it comes to extracting reliable information.
- Mazinger Z: Discussed in episode 56. The main characters capture two Mooks, and Nuke and Mucha decide interrogating one of them using the fearsome procedure of... tickling it to death. Boss ran out of patience, though, and stated that it was time to use real torture techniques. However that got Sayaka utterly scandalized and she berated him for even thinking about it, stating that war prisoners have human rights, too. Boss relented.
- Leona from Dominion Tank Police managed to successfully interrogate a suspect by strongly implying that she was willing to resort to desperate measures. She came into the room carrying throwing knives and a hand grenade, and — just to give the suspect the impression that she was really Axe Crazy — wearing a Playboy Bunny outfit.
- Also by Masamune Shirow: Deunan Knute in Appleseed was once left to interrogate a suspect. The last panel showed her drawing a very large blade from a back sheath. A few pages later, we get the guy complaining about the "neck to groin gash" on the subject. . .
- In the Darker Than Black universe, Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique is established as an effective means of getting information out of Contractors because, as Havoc mentions, their naturally self-serving attitudes will lead them to talk almost immediately. Hei himself performs this on ex-Contractor Havoc in an attempt to get information about his sister before a)it's clear she doesn't know anything and b)he realizes that she's no longer the cold-blooded monster he once knew her as.
- In the first episode, Hei does this on a Contractor- the guy had to break his own fingers as a price for his powers, and Hei stabs him in the hand with his knife. After getting the information, Hei kills him anyway, disgusted by his cowardice.
- You could probably also count November 11 freezing to the ground the gangster who betrayed him and then demanding information on the location of the "package". Once he gets the info, November walks away, and the freezing spreads across the guy's whole body and he does a Popsicle Splat. Really, there's no such thing as a Technical Pacifist in the Darker Than Black universe.
- This is given a Lampshade Hanging in the Durarara!! manga. Walker and Erika are going to torture someone based upon whatever anime or manga they choose, and when the victim glances at Darker Than Black, it's commented that this is a "good choice".
- Many in the Sniper Control Office in EL are delighted when female suspects are brought in for interrogation, as it's pretty much their cue to rape and sexually torture them in every way imaginable. Some of them obviously don't care whether they even get any information or not, completely ignoring one victim's pleas that she would talk if they'd stop.
- As mentioned above, Walker and Erica from Durarara!!. Probably the quickest way to get information out of someone in Ikebukuro is to lock them in a van with those two and a heap of manga.
- In Maiden Rose, during interrogation for treason, Grand Chamberlain Hasebe cites the fact that Klaus' disavowal of his citizenship means his actions can't be tried for war crimes... and canes Klaus brutally, before deciding to just kill him when he won't talk. Taki stops him Just in Time.
- As Hiei puts it, "your assistant was in the mood to talk." Then flashes back to the scene when he threatens M5 and his tail for information.
- In Death Note, L orders Watari to do this to Misa. We don't see what he does, but whatever it is lasts three days and leaves her begging Rem for death. When physical torture fails to get her to talk (because of a Memory Gambit that ensures she really doesn't know anything), he instead leaves her in full-body restraints, sensory deprivation earphones, and a blindfold for weeks on end. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen!
- In the Firefly fanfic Forward, Mal and Zoe start interrogating one of Adelei Niska's men because Niska has kidnapped River and Jayne and is torturing them For the Evulz. The morality of the situation is highly suspect; most of the crew find the apparent necessity horrific, and in the end it proves entirely fruitless, as the thug is more afraid of Niska than he is of Mal. It isn't until Book drugs the man and Wash talks him into revealing information that they get anything useful.
- You Obey makes very effective use of this trope. It's actually subverted in that the interrogator really doesn't want to have to resort to it, vastly prefering less disturbing and more reliable methods.
- 24: The Musical, a fan-made musical version of the show's second season, parodies and lampshades this by having Jack sing "Torture and killing / They're par for the course / Sometimes there's no other way / You want results / You gotta use force / This is the longest day of my life!"
- Slipping Between Worlds, British Army officer Lieutenant Philip Holtack attempted to subvert his Escape And Evasion training by asking the rational question "But there's nothing a trained interrogator cannot get out of a prisoner given enough time and effort. So what if I were to say Look, I'll tell you everything I know right now to save time, so we can both clock off early and spare a lot of aggravation?" This earned him a punishment from his tutors, who felt he wasn't taking things sufficiently seriously, and ultimately, a place on an SAS-level "resisting interrogation" course where things were ratcheted up to a level of nastiness he would not normally have experienced. This is Truth in Television: being "captured" and forced to undergo a mock interrogation under realistic conditions is part of training for many British service personnel.
- Navarone sometimes has to resort to this in Diaries of a Madman. This is nothing compared to Kat, however, who possesses skills that would make Jack proud.
- Averted in Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race. Human rights laws mean the police can't use this on Mr. Black.
- In Revelations chapter 11/12, Túrante tortures another vampire to get information about the plans of the Big Bad. She had killed the rest, but left one alive for this purpose.
- In Into The Hedge, Lero is heavily implied to pull this on a pack of soulless clones of the Cutie Mark Crusaders; who are young school-age girls.
- HK-47 in The Havoc Side of the Force asks a crew member of the ship that attacked them a question. When she refuses to answer, he holds her outside the force field keeping the ship's atmosphere in until she almost passes out then asks again. Harry's mildly disturbed by this but doesn't let it show.
- Subverted in The Headhunt. Lieutenant Dul'krah, Clan Korekh, security chief of the USS Bajor, draws a knife while interrogating a Mafia capo ... and then just sits there picking his fingernails with it, all the while just staring at her for over half an hour. Helps that A) he's nearly seven feet tall and "built like a Cardassian main battle tank" in his captain's words, and B) his species has nictitating membranes (i.e. he can make his eyes look lidless) and vertical slit pupils, so all he really needs to do is sit there with the knife and look scary. The fact that the capo can't escape, being shackled to the table, does the rest.
- Mortality Watson does this when Holmes and captured and tortured with an inch of his life. Needless to say, the criminal begs for mercy, and let's just say that Watson, murders the criminal.
- Deconstructed in The Siege, where Devereaux and Kraft calmly discuss the best technique to use to torture an arabic male suspected to have knowledge of terrorist activities. However, he knows nothing, and the torture/murder is used by Hubbard to justify arresting Devereaux.
- Appears heavily in Brazilian movie Tropa de Elite (aka The Elite Squad, won the Berlin Golden Bear), with Truth in Television techniques since the movie is based on a real Special Forces squad. Besides physical aggression, other interrogation methods include plastic bags on the head (and watering one which passed out after receiving the bag twice), and menacing sodomy with a broomstick.
- In the blaxploitation film Three the Hard Way, the heroes capture a mook alive, and torture him, in which he's placed in a bedroom with three gorgeous females, who, behind the closed door, do some sort of rape or something to him, over quite a period of time, and various screams, so much so that one of the other heroes gets nervous. He wants to find out what's going on, and his friend suggests otherwise, "Brother, if you go in there, they're liable to pull your assets in with him, too." "Yeah, maybe I better wait."
- Probably the godfather of the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique is none other than "Dirty" Harry Callahan. When Scorpio, a murderous psycho who likes to snipe people off, kidnaps a teenage girl and leaves her in a spot where she'll drown in a few hours, he makes Harry run all the way across the city as fast as he can in order to get the information on her whereabouts, but when Harry is finished, the killer, in a crossing of the Moral Event Horizon, says that he's changed his mind and is just going to let her die before trying to kill Harry. Needless to say, Harry is furious, and when he finally tracks Scorpio down on a football field, Harry gets brutal in making him give up the location of the girl. Harry's brutal methods get results, but when the girl is finally found, it's too late for her. Harry promptly gets a dressing-down for "police torture" among other violations of due process by Da Chief, and Scorpio gets Off on a Technicality anyway because of those violations.
- Played straight in Public Enemies, where the Bureau Of Investigation's tactics to locating John Dillinger involve torturing men dying in hospitals from gunshot wounds (by agitating the wound) and beating up defenseless women. In the former case, it's played straight because it works. The second case subverts it because the subject being beaten gives false information.
- Truth in Television: BOI agents were known to beat prisoners during the later days of the manhunts for Dillinger, the Barker-Karpis gang, Pretty Boy Floyd and the Kansas City Massacre conspirators, etc. Dick Galatas, a conspirator of the Massacre, complained about this in a motion filed by his lawyer. In fact, after Dock Barker was caught, one agent bragged of breaking a telephone book over his head.
- Referenced in Reservoir Dogs where Mr. White, Mr. Pink and Mr. Blonde try to torture a cop to find out if he knows anything about the setup of their disastrous heist. When Nice Guy Eddie finds out, he criticizes their thinking saying "If you fucking beat this prick long enough, he'll tell you he started the goddamn Chicago fire, now that don't necessarily make it fucking so!" When everyone but Blonde leaves, he proceeds to torture the cop anyway, admitting that he neither cares nor expects to get any information out of him, but simply because he likes to torture cops.
- Also notable in that, despite the particularly brutal beating the cop suffers, he tells them nothing, even though he knows exactly who the mole is.
- Mick does this to quite a few people in Crocodile Dundee 2 (including a cop who's following him) after Sue is kidnapped by a mobster. The most extreme case is when, after subduing a thug sent to kill him, he dangles him out the window of a high-rise and threatens to cut the rope with his knife until he talks, which the guy eventually does. (Possibly a subversion, because at that point, he may have been angry enough to actually kill the guy.)
- In Taken, with Liam Neeson, the main character has 96 hours to find his kidnapped daughter before she becomes drug addicted and sold into prostitution. He finds a man who knows information, and the scene proceeds quickly with the trafficker waking up as the hero knocks two nails together and tells him to wake up and focus. He then rams the nails into the trafficker's thighs, attaches crocodile clips to the nails, wired to the mains electricity through a light switch, and proceeds. He at one point mentions torturing people in backwater countries where the electricity was unreliable, but in Paris "I can leave it on until it gets shut off for not paying the bill." Once the trafficker's told the hero everything he knows, the response is a cool "I believe you...but it's not going to save you," and turns the light switch on one last time. Then walks out leaving it on and, as revealed in the sequel, the trafficker dies from the current causing his heart to explode.
- James Bond does this in The Spy Who Loved Me, with a mook hanging by his necktie from a great height. Once Bond has the information, he lets the mook fall.
- Occurs in Dead Poets Society. Headmaster Nolan paddles Charlie to get information about the student's poetry group.
- Used in Lethal Weapon 3 where our heroes convince one of the gang leaders to tell them where they've been getting weapons from by threatening to have Lorna run him over with a car. He gives up the name, she puts the pedal to the metal... and it's revealed that the car was put in reverse.
- Marv from Sin City, when he needs to find something out, he just goes out and finds somebody that knows more than him and he asks them. Sometimes he asks pretty hard.
Marv: I don't know about you, but I'm having a ball. (Said as he is driving a car while dragging a guy's face on the pavement.)
- John Creasy from Man on Fire, to gain information and destroy everyone responsible for Lupita's kidnapping. His technique including: cutting someone's finger off, blasting someone's kneecaps off with a shotgun, and shoving a thimbleful of C4 explosive into somebody's ass and chaining them to a car. When this guy goes Papa Wolf, let's just say you do not want to be among those responsible for messing with the kid.
- In The Machine Girl When interrogating a yakuza for information on the gang's new hideout the decide to both smash his face with a hammer and drive nails into his face.
- In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Eddie Valiant threatens R.K. Maroon into telling him what he knows about Cloverleaf's plot to get Toontown by sticking Maroon's tie in a film-editing machine. (Of course, Eddie had a good reason to be angry; Maroon had used him as an Unwitting Pawn in the scheme.)
Eddie: I'm going to listen to you spin the Cloverleaf scenario. The story of greed, sex and murder. And the parts that I don't like, I'm going to edit all out.
- Lawful Neutral Scott in Spartan breaks a man's arm in an alleyway. When the guy still won't talk Scott orders his somewhat alarmed apprentice to "take his eye out" and then "you bet your life" when he hesitates.
- In the 1987 movie of Dragnet:
It's just you... and me... and your balls... and this drawer. SLAM!
- In Guarding Tess, Nicolas Cage's character, who is a Secret Service Agent, threatens and then shoots the toe off of a suspect to get the information he desires.
- Done by Dory in Finding Nemo after she politely asks a crab for information to where Marlin went and gets snubbed by him, she essentially threatens to feed him to the gulls and she actually carries out the threat by lifting the crab out of the water in front of said ravenous seagulls.
- "H", the "hero" of the film Unthinkable, 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 counterterrorism unit assisting him, causing them to run interference.
- Subverted in The Punisher (2004). To get information from a mook, the titular hero fakes taking a blowtorch to the mook's back, using a popsicle and a slab of steak, along with a monologue describing the effects of a blowtorch on human skin.
- The cops in The Untold Story brutalize the owner of a restaurant because they suspect that he killed the original owners and possibly a few of his employees.
- Subverted in Serpico. When Frank Serpico discovers a brutal gang rape, he only manages to capture one of the perps. The perp is then beaten to a pulp by his commanding officer with no results. Later on Serpico's humane methods (taking the perp for a burger and soda) manage to get him to give the rest of the gang up.
- In X-Men: First Class, Erik interrogates a bank President by using his magnetic powers to pull out the older man's dental fillings. Later, he cracks Emma Frost's diamond body in such a way that a gentle tap would shatter her if she turned back before having time to heal.
- In The Wolverine, Logan does this to Noburo. ("Talk or I'll throw you out that fucking window!").
- In Wanted: Dead Or Alive, bounty hunter Nick Randall comes up with a technique that works more on the principle of abject terror than pain: tossing the terrorist's Mook into a free-standing locker and locking him inside, he demands to know where the Big Bad Malak Al Rahim is. Every time the mook refuses to talk, Nick taps the locker twice with the tip of the barrel of his rifle, and then fires. Faced with the terror of trying to dodge the bullets in the blind, his subject quickly cracks. The film somewhat justifies his being able to use this technique by establishing earlier that as a freelance bounty hunter, Nick is not quite as constrained by some of the laws binding the police and government agents also pursuing the terrorist. Of course, he probably could still have been prosecuted for this if anyone actually cared about his victim.
- Parodied in Dude, Where's My Car?. The two main stoner characters are interrogated by the cops for a crime they didn't commit, but they don't remember anything from the night before. Thinking they're holding out on them, the cops then bring in a dummy, which they "torture" with beatings, pouring hot coffee in its face, and cigarette burns.
Chester: Leave him alone! He doesn't know anything!
- This only works on Chester, though. Jesse just looks confused at the whole thing.
- Deconstructed in The Dark Knight:. Batman tries to force the Joker to reveal the locations of Harvey Dent and Rachel by punching him repeatedly and smashing his head onto a glass window. The Joker laughs in response. He then voluntarily relents and gives Batman the information anyway but he switches their locations, thus intentionally providing misinformation.
- In the Live-Action Adaptation of Dudley Do-Right, Dudley ties one of Snidley's minions to a log on a saw mill to get information. Since this is a family movie, the saw was made of paper mache.
- Standard tactics for the eponymous squad in Gangster Squad. For example, harris extorts information out of a drug dealer by pinning him against a wall and squeezing the knife wound he had inflicted on him earlier in the movie.
- At one point in Warhammer 40,000, Haegr of the Space Wolves threatens to rip off a cultist's arms and eat them if he doesn't spill his guts. Unlike in most cases, it actually works with a space marine, since they can literally smell a lie.
- According to Sirius Black in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Aurors during the first war were given permission to, and did, enact this trope. Given the Ministry's standard for due diligence and investigative competence, it is likely that a great many innocent people were tortured (Such as Sirius himself, who was later sentenced to life in prison without trial). Retired Badass Alastor Moody was singled as having never done this in spite of being authorized to do so to show he's a good guy.
- Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Particularly disturbing about this example is the light-hearted calmness with which she conducts these interrogations, to say nothing of the fact that they are, by definition, practiced on children. And yet, the authorites don't punish for anything until she collaborates with Voldemort.
- Also, in the seventh book, the hired-by-Voldemort teachers have sanction to use torture on the students. In the same book, after it became apparent that one of the items that Mundungus Fletcher stole and sold from the Black residence was Slytherin's Locket, Harry had Dobby and Kreatcher (the latter of whom was now more than willing to listen to Harry Potter after he explained to Harry Potter about Regulus' Heroic Sacrifice to retrieve the locket) abduct Mundungus Fletcher and later interrogated him pretty brutally to get the name of the person whom he sold the locket to (or at least a physical profile). They later ended up scalding him after his description of the person he sold it to matched that of Dolores Umbridge, although that was more by accident due to shock of who now owns the horcrux than an actual interrogation technique.
- In Honor Harrington, this is sometimes mentioned as the fate of any do-badders captured by the 'heroic' Star Kingdom of Manticore, often ending with summary execution.
- At one point, a man is hired to legally murder the protagonist's boyfriend through a duel. He does so, and her friends track him down, and torture him until he tells them exactly what they want to hear (who hired him, mainly). They then set him up to die horribly in a duel with the protagonist (it is noted that the confession they got wouldn't hold up in court, but it does snap Honor out of her Heroic BSOD). He was planning to duel with (and kill) Honor anyway; she just provoked him into challenging her instead of the other way around.
- In the Elric saga, the Melnibonaens had refined torture to the point it was considered an art form, and it was apparently possible to earn a doctorate in it
- Captain Azarcon admits to using this technique to get what he needs from pirates and war criminals. Even Jos once shoots a pirate in the chest in an attempt to make his buddies talk.
- Worsel the Velantian and Nadreck of Palain VII of the Lensman universe go to town on captured Overlords of Delgon with the Delgonians' own torture devices. There are extenuating circumstances in Worsel's case - the Delgonians at one point used to systematically torture members of Worsel's race to death not only to get off on the suffering but also in order to drink their life-essence as they died, and had been doing so for thousands of years. When the tables are turned, nobody begrudges the Velantians their revenge. Nadreck on the other hand is a (literally) frigid-blooded entity who makes Mr Spock and Lt.Cmdr Data look like over-excited emo-woobies by comparison, and is so far removed from humanity both biologically and psychologically that he has NO concept whatsoever of suffering or mercy - all he cares about is getting the information he needs with the minimum of effort.
- Earlier in the same universe, the psychopathic Herkimer Herkimer III captures Jill Samms and threatens to torture her for information by (among other things) planting flesh-eating creatures on her body. Subverted when the Lensmen get back in touch with her, locate her, and tell her to save herself the agony by giving him the information, because he's basically got less than a minute to live. One of her rescuers is very much in love with her (and she with him), and Herkimer's end is quite messy as a result.
- Jack Ryan:
- In Without Remorse, John Clark is on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against a criminal group so he captures someone who is part of the group, shoved him in a boat, and drove back to his island home, leased from the Navy and stocked with all kinds of surplus gear. Like a pressurization chamber!! For the next ten hours, he uses it to put his captive at around 100 feet simulated depth, and to raise it when the man didn't answer his questions properly. By the time Clark had finished, every joint in the man's body was crippled, the insides of his eyes had burst, most of his muscles were (for all intents and purposes) one giant bruise, and he had the next best thing to a stroke. When finished, he drove the man back to the mainland and left him on the beach for the police to find: Blind, incoherent, and crippled, spending the next month in agony before finally dying.
- Clark applies a slightly less brutal version in The Sum of All Fears to wring a confession out of two Arab terrorists who set off a nuclear bomb in Denver. There is a deadline involved - namely the threat of all-out nuclear war between the U.S. and the USSR, and the technique used is finger breaking. Also subverted, in that the terrorists lie.
- In Black Sunday, Kabakov wants a freighter captain to tell him whom he dealt with, and he refuses. So Kabakov tells the captain, "I'm going outside for a smoke." Kabakov turns to his assistant, and says "Mochevsky, I suspect the captain would like some refreshments. Call me when he has finished eating his testicles."
- Utilized by Agent Stanley B. Goode to extract information from Dr. Wiley in The Tumbleweed Dossier.
- Novak, the Anti-Hero of the zombie noir Undead on Arrival pretty much assaults everyone he's questioning. The trope is averted, since if you go back and look, everyone he strong-arms lies to him.
- Vampire Academy:
- Used by Rose to interrogate Strigoi. She repeatedly wounds them with enchanted silver stakes, the only thing that really causes them lasting pain. The pain only stops when they spill the beans. Those with interesting information get to live, the rest are staked.
- Used by Dimitri and Rose to interrogate Sonya Karp during her Strigoi faze. The method fails to produce any answers, as Sonya figures out that they are not going to kill her. She is their only lead in the mystery they are investigating.
- Jack Bauer (from 24) does this a lot. In 67 scenes in the first five seasons. He starts by threatening to shove a towel down Ted Cofell's throat until he begins to digest it before pulling it out. In one instance (the beginning of the second season), Jack Bauer decides that the perp is no longer necessary except as bait, and proceeds to actually shoot and kill the perp, cut off his head, and put it in a carpet bag.
- Later in season 2, 2AM-3AM, Jack is on the receiving side.
- The show's producers promised to cut down on torture scenes (in part due to the dean of West Point coming out to tell the writers to knock it off because his cadets were getting the wrong idea); indeed, throughout season 6, torture sessions conducted by Jack Bauer and other CTU officers have largely proven ineffective at getting the perp to talk. The Movie, Redemption, subverted the trope; while being tortured by The Dragon, Jack breaks down in tears and tells him exactly what he wants to hear, thereby causing him to send his Mooks on a wild goose chase so that Jack can escape.
- It's a rather twisted Aesop—the message seems to be that torture will always work on bad guys, but will never work on good guys, or at least good guys named Jack Bauer. Handy, that.
- Jack's torture technique is subverted towards the end of Season Five, where he confronts President Charles Logan. Instead of torturing him, Jack simply sits across from him and stares. Within minutes, the man is breaking down and babbling helplessly. Also, the whole thing is a Batman Gambit to plant a bug on Logan.
- Torture proved so common and effective in 24, one Jack Bauer Fact claims, "Jack Bauer once forgot where he put his keys. He then spent the next half-hour torturing himself until he gave up their location."
- Season seven is very clearly an attempt to appease the people upset with the earlier use of torture. There are two prominent characters on Jack's side who are adamantly against using torture, even as one is forced to use Jack-like methods more and more, much to her own horror. And the show noticeably does not take the easy way out by making either of them The Mole in the FBI foreshadowed since the season premiere.
- Season 4 shows other downside of torture: when the victim happens to be innocent but the interrogators realise they're keeping secrets and therefore keep the torture going until that (unrelated) secret comes out. As well as a suspected mole who is then fired when she seeks compensation, The Secretary of Defense is kidnapped and nearly executed on a live webcast. After he is freed, he orders CTU to torture his own son for information, while the son protests that he had nothing to do with the plot. Eventually, they discover another piece of evidence which jogs the son's memory: He had a one-night-stand at a bar, while an accomplice checked his email and stole the SecDef's itinerary. The Secretary then berates his son for not revealing it sooner, but the son (correctly) points out that he had no reason to connect a random sexual encounter with events that occurred three weeks later. However, the main reason the son didn't want to discuss it, and the reason the interrogators had thought he was being deceptive, was because he was trying to hide his sexual orientation - the random sexual encounter had been with a man, not a woman as the interrogators and his father assumed.
- Season 8 featured Jack torturing Pavel Tokarev, the man who killed Renee Walker by tying him to a steel pole, ripping off part of his skin with pliers, savagely beating him, cutting him with a knife, throwing some liquid that burned his skin on him, and burning him with a blow torch before disemboweling him to pull a SIM Card that he swallowed out of his chest. It was very bloody.
- To give an idea of how cold-blooded Jack Bauer is regarding torture; the guy he's strangling in the picture for this page is his brother. Jack tortured him in Season 6, and his brother was also one of the major players in the Season 5 plot. The audience was aware of this but Jack was not at the time. Making it somewhat interesting as the viewers knew how rotten Jack's brother was, but Jack seemed to be going really far considering how little he knew.
- Deconstructed thoroughly by Burn Notice. Michael states explicitly that torture never works - the person you're torturing will say whatever they think you want to hear to get the pain to stop. Both Michael and Sam have been interrogated in this fashion and never crack, and whenever they interrogate bad guys, it's never strictly physical torture.
- From Michael's voiceover in an S2 episode:
Michal Westen (Narration): The fact is, torture is for sadists and thugs. It's like getting groceries with a flame thrower; it doesn't work and it makes a mess."
- And in "The Hunter", all of Fiona and Sam's threats and actual violence on a suspect don't get them the information they need. Mama Bear Madeline walks in, lights a cigarette, and proceeds to talk the guy into confessing everything he knows.
- They love smashing this trope on this show. The episode "Friends Like These" gives us the quote "Torture just gets you the fastest lie to make the pain stop," after Barry suggested Michael and Sam use a car battery on a bad guy.
- In Smallville, this is surprisingly common. Most of them are from government agents (or something like that, but no one is sure if they are the real deal).
- In season four, Lex, Jason, and Lana all gets this to find out the location of some magic stone.
- In season seven, Kara is tortured to find out where she came from. Chloe is tortured to find out whom she is in contact with.
- Jack Bauer's predecessor was Madeline in the TV version of La Femme Nikita. Created years earlier by 24 producers Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran, Nikita featured the world-class "Torture Twins" and their employer Madeline... who was revealed in one episode as being better at torture than they were. Yeah, these were the good guys, too - although this question presented a theme throughout the show: How much evil can you do and still remain "good"? In one episode, for example, they were shown tormenting one of their own agents just because 'he made a mistake' - he went AWOL and told someone about his double life as an agent of Section One. As always, this method was shown to be hideously effective.
- Subverted in "Lessons Learned" of Season Two of Criminal Minds, where Jason Gideon is asked to help with a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay prison. Instead of torture, he just tricks the prisoner into thinking his plan had already happened, so he would tell them what it was, just to gloat. It's implied that the man has already *been* tortured, and that it hasn't worked for exactly the reasons described. All it's done, in fact, is reinforce his belief that he is a hero, that America is the embodiment of evil, and that it needs to be destroyed - none of which makes him at all eager to give up any information.
- Well, partially subverted: this was part of Gideon's plan. He wanted to be "the good guy" so that the prisoner would confide in him and feel comfortable, giving him information that his previous interrogators- who roughed him up- could not get out of him.
- This episode won a human rights award for this portrayal of torture
- Elliot Stabler (from Law And Order: SVU). It's shocking he's still a cop. And for worse, his partner Olivia Benson picks up after him.
- Nine times out of ten, Stabler is able to get away with it because the guy he assaults/tortures is the perp, or at least dirty, and no one believes a police brutality claim from a suspect. Usually. The times he doesn't get away with it, he's usually reprimanded, and has, on at least two occasions, been suspended. That being said, it's stated early in the show's run that SVU detectives are supposed to be in the department for two years, tops, due to the increasing desensitization and violence exhibited by officers in that position. Why the SVU detectives of the show haven't been rotated out after eight years is anyone's guess. Especially considering the increasing insanity.
- One episode of the fourth season saw Detective Stabler visit the Czech Republic in cooperation with European police agencies investigating a child pornography and prostitution ring that intersected a case Stabler had been working in New York. When Stabler and the European police apprehend the suspect, with all the freedom from those pesky U.S. laws and restrictions regarding treatment of prisoners...let's just say that it puts what he does in New York to shame.
- Babylon 5's Michael Garibaldi is very good at making people think he'll use this sort of interrogation technique, but when all is said and done, he's entirely anti-torture, going so far as to turn in his badge when Sheridan tells him of his intention to torture a suspect in custody.
- Recurring antagonist Alfred Bester did this with his telepathic abilities.
- The Argents from Teen Wolf are very fond of this method of interrogation and they use it on several werewolves, including Derek, Boyd, and Erica.
- And Gerard was totally willing to use this on a very HUMAN Stiles as well.
- Vic Mackey from The Shield, a lot. He beats a suspect with a phone book in the pilot episode to reveal to location of a kidnapped girl and does similar things throughout the show's run, including threatening to drop off a gang member in rival territory (a ticket to the emergency room at minimum) and beating another to death with a length of chain for killing Lem. The kicker? Shane, the actual killer, was there and trying to convince him to stop.
- Al in Quantum Leap goes as far as to discharge his gun right next to Lee Harvey Oswald's ear when Oswald doesn't come clean with what he knows.
- Subverted in the new Battlestar Galactica: When Starbuck tortures Leoben for information... Leoben spends seven hours giving misinformation and trying to Mind Screw Starbuck. Only when the torture stops does he admit he's been lying about the existence of a bomb. And even then he manages to Mind Screw Roslin.
- The Cylon talked about God quite a bit, a valuable psychological insight, which Starbuck ignored.
- The Cylons also tortured Baltar for information after he seemingly sent a Basestar to its death. Thanks to Head-Six, the result was infinitely squicky and full of Mind Screw, with Baltar managing to both convince his interrogator of his innocence and get into her bed. Needless to say it was one of the strangest scenes in the show and an excellent moment in what was otherwise a terrible episode.
- The Pegasus crew tried this on their Cylon prisoner Gina, but got no useful information from her in the process. Baltar did manage to get information about the Resurrection Ship from her after applying the carrot, however, because she was so traumatized that she wanted the Resurrection Ship destroyed so that she could die properly.
- Hilariously parodied in Power Rangers S.P.D.. There's an enemy that will withstand practically anything the Rangers try to get him to talk... until they lock him in a room with their SPD Green Ranger, local psychic Cloud Cuckoo Lander Bridge. In less than ten minutes, the prisoner is pleading to have Bridge away from him.
- Justified appearance on Rome when it appears in the beginning of the season two episode "Testudo et Lepus". Atia tortures the slave boy Duro to find out who hired him to poison her, even though she knows fully well it was Servilia. In republican Rome the testimony of a slave was only legal in court if it had occurred during torture.
- In the first season Octavian and Pullo are interrogating a man about the actual father of Vorenus's wife's son. When he won't talk, Octavian tells Pullo, "Torture him." Pullo isn't sure how to torture somebody, since he's never done it before (it's done by specialists in the Roman army). They settle on cutting off his thumbs.
- In the first episode crucifying a prisoner gets instant results, to the visible annoyance of the soldier who went to all the trouble of nailing him to a cross.
- Has been used repeatedly on Life On Mars, the American edition. Usually by Lieut. Hunt and Ray Carling.
- Also used in the UK original's spinoff, Ashes to Ashes, involving a naked suspect and a pool table. You have three seconds to work out what it entails, and any guesses after the first don't count. Starting now.
- And used at least twice on UK Life on Mars. Sam Tyler and Gene Hunt lock a murder suspect in a freezer until he confesses that his boss did it, and he dumped the body. And there was the incident where Ray Carling had a suspect held down and forcibly given cocaine. The suspect dies in custody, and Ray gets demoted. Oops.
- Teal'c of Stargate SG-1 normally has no need to resort to this: on a few occasions he successfully "interrogates" prisoners by simply scowling across a table, not even needing to ask questions to intimidate them into admitting the truth. In the 10th season episode "Talion", however, he tortures and then kills two people who were involved in a terrorist attack that killed numerous Jaffa civilians. Partially a subversion, since Teal'c gets little useful information from them, and the "interrogation" was probably as much to punish them as to get them to talk.
- On NCIS we never actually see this but it's stated that before joining NCIS Ziva used this all the time. In fact the first time we see her interrogate someone she sits on the other side of the room so she won't be tempted to break any bones.
- Although early on, Gibbs does allow Ziva to employ her interrogation tactics on a woman who knows where a hostage is being held. It's scary because, while the audience never sees the actual scene, when Gibbs returns a few minutes later, the woman is sobbing, terrified and willing to give up information about people who will kill her rather than go through any more questioning.
- Gibbs himself almost commits this on a suspect in the episode "Engagement Part 2", when trying to find out what their terrorist plan is and where his brother is... by trying to plant cigarette burns on him (which is exactly what his sister often did to the schoolgirls they captured in Afghanistan) before Leon stops him. It's a probable subversion, as it is implied that the entire thing, including Leon "stopping" Gibbs, was a setup to trick the younger brother into explaining what they were planning to do.
- In the Torchwood episode "Countrycide", Jack Harkness interrogates Martin to get information about the sinister goings-on in the town.
- Jack Bristow of Alias has his moments with this trope also. In the episode "Nightingale", Sidney is trapped in a nuclear-powered killing machine and Jack learns how to save her by coming into the control room with a gun, pointing it at the operator, and telling him "You are going to tell me what I want to know. The question is how much pain you want to be in when you tell me."
- Sayid from LOST. This was Sayid's entire job in the Republican Guard and since landing on the island it's been something he's been called upon occasionally to do. Somewhat subverted in that it never really seems to work as intended (most notably when he tortured Ben, which yielded nothing and merely freaked out Jack enough to press the button). However, not quite entirely subverted as Sayid still claims that the torture allowed him to confirm that the man wasn't who he said he was.
- Hilarious example from The Sarah Connor Chronicles episode "Heavy Metal". Sarah is unable to get a guy to divulge info so she lets him go, but he has to get past Cameron. Next scene shows him nervously driving them to where they need to go. Cameron smiles at him.
- In a rather gruesome scene in season 2 of Veronica Mars, Weevil has Logan kidnapped. Two PCH bikers proceed to play Russian Roulette with Logan's hands and knees until he tells them whether or not he killed Felix Toombs.
- Don used this in one episode of NUMB3RS to find the location of the woman who had kidnapped Megan. It should be noted that this was not used to build a case at all.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- This is the standard interrogation technique for Buffy. Of course, it's a lot easier to justify when the fate of the world is at stake, and the subjects are frequently demons. Her methods are implied to be especially brutal specifically because the vampires and other nasties are either immortal or extremely difficult to kill.
- Read the 24 example above? Remember Jack describing the Russians forcing a towel down people's throats so when they drag it up their intestines do as well? Buffy does this with a cross. Having her torture someone with a piece of metal on a chain sounds bad enough, but the victim is a vampire. Guess what the cross does.
- Also, demons aren't known for their loyalty, and therefore tend to crack rather quickly.
- Rupert Giles deserves a special mention here for two examples in particular: Ethan Rayne in "Halloween", whom he repeatedly kicks in (hopefully) the ribs, and one of Glory's mooks in "Tough Love", whom he convinces to talk in a single joint-crackling off-screen second. This harmless tweet-clad English gentleman used to be nicknamed "Ripper". He may not have Buffy's combat prowess, but do you ever not want to piss him off.
- Whether as Angel or Angelus, the eponymous character is quite fond of this.
- Angel often did it as well...Merle, Angel's informant,used to get beat up for info a lot. Also in 'Ground State',where Angel says he 'beat the building plans (for the auction house) out of a snitch'.
- Wesley becomes fond of these after his Character Development sets in.
- A similar justification to the Buffy example above is used on Charmed to the point that the girls casually discuss later plans to stun demons rather than killing them explicitly so they can be tortured for information.
Piper: But I so like killing them.
- The Charmed Ones usually preferred a different approach where Piper (whose power was to freeze time) would freeze a demon and then unfreeze his head so they could question him freely. The only time they actually resorted to interrogating humans was when they knew for sure they were guilty such as a murderer identified by his victim's ghost and a criminal framing a woman for murder.
- In the "Nazi Waffen-SS vs. Viet Cong" episode of Deadliest Warrior, the dramatized fight begins with the Waffen-SS leader being beaten up and harshly interrogated by a Viet Cong squad, whose leader has pointed a gun at his head. He refuses to talk and is rescued soon after by his own comrades. The fight ends with the Waffen-SS leader obtaining his revenge by torching the Viet Cong leader with a flamethrower.
- Parodied in the House episode "The Down Low", when House is trying to get information in order to treat a drug dealer:
House: I need the drugs.
Eddie: We're in textiles.
House: I NEED THE DRUGS! (pauses) Hmm... works for Jack Bauer.
- In one episode of Dexter, a police officer looking for the murderer of his brother interogates a suspect by shaking up a soda bottle and shoves it up the guy's nostril as it goes off.
- However, he is reported and suspended.
- In the pilot of City Homicide, Simon, Duncan and Matt arrest Sean Macready, a serial arsonist and child-killer on his way out of his latest target. To force him to tell them where he locked the children, Duncan and Matt physically pull him back into the burning house while they search. Macready is killed when he attempts to throw himself and one of the children into the fire, and the cops escape any punishment.
- Homicide Life On The Street made it a point to avoid this as detectives who hit suspects can not only wreck their case but put their job at risk and can even risk Assault charges.
- Late in season 3, Ryan and Esposito shoot a man non-fatally and then question him while threatening not to call 911. Then, for more info, Esposito shoves the still hot barrel of his gun into a bullet wound...
- Another example from that season is in the second episode of a two-parter in which the Homeland Security Agent taking point on the case throws the suspect down and threatens to shoot him.
- In an earlier season 3 episode, Beckett is interrogating a man named Vulcan Simmons who is believed, thanks to false information from a retired cop, to have had something to do with her mother's death. He taunts her and manages to hit her Berserk Button, causing her to grab him (and he is not a small man) and slam him into the two-way mirror, shattering it, and threatening him before Ryan and Esposito run in to pull her away.
- Castle himself engages in this, off-screen, when Alexis is kidnapped.
- Beckett attempts this in the season 7 premiere to get info from a junkyard employee. She nearly breaks a finger and threatens to break them all, but unfortunately it doesn't work.
- In Community episode The Science of Illusion Annie slams Jeff's head down onto a table in an attempt to do this, but given the context of the show (and the general cuteness of her character), it comes off more as the Torture for Fun and Information (at least to the audience).
- Shirley then provides a straighter example as she threatens to cut Jeff up with a pizza slicer.
- The Collector: Applied to Morgan twice. Didn't work, of course. He must have built up resistance to pain from the fatal injuries he keeps getting.
- In the pilot of Fringe, Peter manages to get information out of a suspect Olivia couldn't crack by smashing his fingers repeatedly with a coffee mug. Well, a coffee mug that was full of hot coffee...
- Somewhat subverted in at least one episode of Spooks. The spies are presented with a ticking time bomb scenario and they've managed to find one of the gang responsible. Pearce, their commander, tells them that "under no circumstances whatsoever are you allowed to use torture to find out the location" (wink wink). Adam Carter, the guy who literally wrote the book on how to survive torture, acknowledges that it's going to be useless trying to torture him as he's an ex spy and would have received training in how to hold out against pain. Instead, they use a variety of "soft" techniques to get him to tell them the location.
- The show genuinely aimed for a degree of realism as well, and often played with moral choices such as this. They made it clear that it was never, in any way, guaranteed to work. They also made it very clear that it wasn't going to yield instant results either. Which somehow only made it worse.
- Monk has two examples, both courtesy of Captain Stottlemeyer:
- The episode "Mr. Monk Stays In Bed" has Stottlemeyer doing a mundane version of the trope. He and Randy go to a club to interview John Delancey, a likely suspect behind the disappearance/murder of Judge Jillian Garr, and tries to question him on what he knows about her disappearance. When the subject they find at Delancey's table denies it, he then dunks his tie into his porridge after asking if he likes "Thai food", and supplies his own tie to the man out of guilt after Randy tells him that they have the wrong table. Only, they discover a few seconds later it was the right man all along, so we then see Stottlemeyer helping Delancey with his newly acquired tie by tightening it to borderline stranglement.
- Stottlemeyer does it in "Mr. Monk and the End, Part I" after hitman Joey Kazarinski poisons Monk. He is seen grilling a forger who recently supplied Kazarinski with a fake ID to determine what name Kazarinski is using. The friend asks, mockingly, "What are you going to do? Hit me with a phonebook? There are no phonebooks in here, captain. Nobody uses phonebooks anymore. They all use computers." Stottlemeyer replies, thoughtfully, "Yeah, you're right," as his gaze settles on a laptop in the room. The scene promptly cuts to Stottlemeyer handing Randy a smashed laptop.
Lt. Randall Disher: Did you get a name?
Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: Yes, I did. Oh, and your computer crashed.
- Realistically subverted in the pilot of Blue Bloods. Danny beats the living daylights out of a child predator to find a kidnapped girl. Said predator's lawyer successfully argues that the confession is inadmissible, forcing Danny to find other evidence to put him away.
- JAG: In "Nobody's Child" when questioning a convicted child molester Harm gets dangerously close to this.
- On Family Matters, Steve once got Carl to tell him where Laura is by showing him a picture disc filled with pictures from a cheese festival.
- Danny has intentions of doing this in CSI NY 'Heroes' when Mac is questioning a guy suspected of killing Aiden. Mac warns him off by telling him they have to do it right and working the guy over won't help the situation. Turns out he wasn't the killer anyway.
- Scandal: Deconstructed Trope by Huck, who was forced to practice this. He uses it horribly.
- You normally wouldn't expect to see this sort of thing in Doctor Who, but it was attempted in the episode "Cold Blood" (New Series Season 5, Episode 9) by one of the oneshot characters named Ambrose, who attempted to torture the Monster of the Week (or rather, Alien Race of the Week) with an exposed electrical wire into releasing her child from a supposed captivity, or at least giving up information regarding him. In the end, however, she took it too far and killed Alaya in her hysteria.
- The pilot for the failed Wonder Woman series included a very egregious use of this. The title character goes to a crook that was in a hospital (by the way, Wonder Woman was the one who put him there) deciding to use torture to get knowledge on a woman she suspected had committed a crime. Of course, before she started to break his fingers, Wonder Woman put her Lasso of Truth on the guy's chest, pointing out it is called the Lasso of Truth, but going with the torture anyway! Hooray for Wonder Woman?
- Frequently would appear in Whose Line Is It Anyway?'s Good Cop, Bad Cop game, were the bad cop would frequently resort to this at even the slightest trigger, even if they were doing mundane things like helping fix a broken dish washer.
- Ripper Street: Reid, Bennet and Jackson do this to the poisoner Claxton - squeezing his broken arm - in "The King Came Calling" to find out where he sent the consignment of poisoned flour.
- How Chandler from Friends compares Monica's massage.
"It was like she was torturing me for information and I wanted to give it up, it's just, I didn't know what it was."
- Special Unit 2 plays the trope for laughs. What Measure is a "Link"?
- Inspector George Gently: In "The Burning Man", Commander Empton of Special Branch lays a beatdown on a suspect inspected of being involved with the IRA, to Gently's obvious disgust.
- In Orphan Black, Alison, suspecting her husband Donnie of being her monitor, not only ties him up, blindfolds and gags him, but drips hot glue from a gun onto his chest. Not only do we hear him wince, we see the third-degree burns this caused, burns he says a great deal of time later still hurt when he showers.
- A Defiance episode reveals that Votanis Collective agents have planted a bomb in New York City. One of their agents in Defiance is Mahsuvus Gorath, an Irathient male prostitute working at the NeedWant. The Earth Republic forces capture him (while he's "busy" with a client), and Nolan is ordered to get the location of the bomb out of him by any means necessary. Having fought in the Pale Wars, Nolan knows some very unpleasant techniques for getting someone to reveal information. However, Mahsuvus is a trained soldier and spy himself and knows how to resist this sort of interrogation. Even when Nolan uses shrills (flesh-eating spores), Mahsuvus simply takes it in stride.
- An episode of Blade has Marcus Van Sciver's people capture Shen, Blade's tech guy. Van Sciver tells Krista to extract Blade's location from Shen using torture. When Krista points out that she has no experience with tortute, Van Sciver reminds her that she served in Iraq and must have seen torture first-hand. Shen nods to her, and she removes one of his fingernails with a scalpel. When that doesn't produce results, she pretends to break one of his fingers, while breaking hers instead (being a vampire, she heals instantly) while he screams in pretend pain. Luckily, an outside event forces Van Sciver to leave.
- The 100 has the heroes torture Lincoln with whips, stabbing implements, and electric wires in order to find out the antidote for the poisoned knife he used on Finn. It doesn't work, though; through the entire torture session, Lincoln refuses to say a single word, trying to convince them he doesn't know English. They do end up getting the information out of him using threats, but not in the usual way: Octavia cuts herself with the same poisoned knife that Finn was cut with, forcing Lincoln to reveal the antidote or let her die.
- In the second season, Kane and Indra suggest torturing Emerson for information on Mount Weather, but Clarke, drawing on her experiences with Lincoln, insists that torture doesn't work.
- Standard operating procedure for Imperial law enforcement in Warhammer 40,000. Shining example: the "Nine Actions" are the Inquisition's specific guidelines on gradually increasing the intensity of their questioning, psychological manipulation, torture, and Mind Rape. Action Nine would kill any normal human pretty quick, but then normal humans usually give in at about the two-mark, which involves explaining exactly what is going to happen through the next seven stages.
- You all want to know what they are, don't you? Here:
I Action: Verbal interrogation of suspect. No harm done.
II Action: Threat of force and/or descriptions of further actions. No harm done.
III Action: Light physical torture, followed by verbal interrogation.
IV Action: Light physical torture, psychological manipulation.
VI Action: Sensory deprivation. Prior actions following if victim still alive and/or sane.
VII Action: Intensive psychic interrogation.
VIII Action: Use of psycho-chemical drugs.
IX Action: Unrelenting physical and psychic torture. Interrogation optional.note
- In Oedipus the King, when the shepherd who found the abandoned infant Oedipus and gave him to Polybus is brought to Oedipus he refuses to talk. Oedipus orders his guards to twist his arm behind his back until he does. Later, he threatens to have the man killed when he hesitates again.
- God of War 2 had Kratos brutally forcing a number of scholars to translate tablets. This involved him literally bashing their heads on the tablet itself to get them to read the whole damn thing. Then, after that, Kratos ends their misery by crushing their heads on the tablet and using their blood as a sacrifice.
- Mass Effect
- The Cerberus organization from Mass Effect enjoy this, and in fact it is treated as a valid, if somewhat immoral, technique. Same with Saren, so it's not just for humans. Saren, being a Spectre, has the authority to ignore laws in order to accomplish his mission. In Mass Effect: Revelation, the prequel novel,, he brutally interrogates a batarian by breaking an appendage for every wrong answer. After finally getting all he can from the guy, Saren simply snaps his neck, considering himself merciful.
- You can do this in Mass Effect 2 during Thane's loyalty mission while trying to shake down an uncooperative perp for information about an assassin's target. It's purely optional but incredibly cathartic.
- And you can subvert it as well: At the very beginning of the interrogation, there's an option to explain to the perp exactly who you are and what you do. He'll blab immediately if you choose it, and Thane will note it as quite possibly the shortest interrogation ever.
- Or an even more hilarious manner, wait till his lawyer gets into the room, then punch the perp (in front of the lawyer). The lawyer will mention how he'll have your badge. Shepard then replies s/he's a Spectre. The lawyer tells his client that indeed, Shepard could shoot him here and now and it would be legal.
- This could also be a lie, as it is entirely possible not to be reinstated as a Spectre.note
- In which then Shepard simply draws a gun and states this.
- Captain Bailey of Citadel Security advocates this to make criminals talk. If Shepard calls him on this, he responds that the Citadel Wards are dangerous places and he has to use these methods to get the information he needs.
- In Purgatory, you can have your teammates comment on this trope. Garrus will point out the flaws in the method, noting that the interrogated will say anything, likely false, in order to make the punishment stop.
Garrus: "You don't even get good information that way. After a point, victims admit to anything to make the pain stop."
- On the villain side, though not quite as brutal (as killing or crippling people would of course lessen the amount of money the family brings in and bring down the heat) the same can be done in The Sopranos game. There are also less interactive hotspots however. After the first (which is a story related death) killing people you aren't supposed to has a negative effect on your standing. Knock off too much of the clientele and you get to join Big Pussy.
- Does Ryo Hazuki from Shenmue ever do anything else?
- In Fallout 3, there is a moment after the player character is captured by the Enclave in which it looks as though things are going to head in this direction. Thanks to some timely intervention from President Eden, however, it stops just short of this point.
- Fallout: New Vegas allows you to interrogate a Legion prisoner at one point. The CO wants you to rough him up a little (and is letting you do it in the first place to avoid anti-brutality laws), but you also have the option to use your speech skills to Mind Screw him. Both have the exact same successful result, and the CO compliments your methods either way. You also have the option to kill the prisoner afterward, but this is related to a separate quest about one of your followers and not the interrogation.
- In Heavy Rain, Carter Blake likes to interrogate suspects in this manner, when you play as Jayden you get the chance to intervene whenever Blake starts beating up suspects (And even innocents) to get answers. If Ethan is arrested, Jayden can intervene when Blake starts torturing him and punch Blake into a wall.
- In Splinter Cell Conviction, this is the method Sam uses a lot to get information out of people.
- "Beat this filth until it speaks..."
- Flint Paper of Sam & Max: Freelance Police is a master of this technique, and Sam indulges in some of this in the first act of the Telltale adventure game They Stole Max's Brain!
- Well, it's debatable if Flint is trying to get information by beating the tar out of perps. Mostly he pummels them in lieu of turning them over to the government-employed police (for example, see just about any time Max describes Flint's encounters with Artie Flopshark in Poker Night at the Inventory).
- In The Punisher video game from 2005 you can torture almost any enemy, complete with a small minigame. Very few of the enemies have useful information, but a successful interrogation will restore health to the Punisher.
- In Assassin's Creed I, Altaïr's method of interrogation is beating people until they talk. Apparently Ezio picks it up in Brotherhood.
- In Call of Duty: Black Ops, Hudson does this every damn second in the game, you interrogate a scientist by breaking a window, putting the shards of glass in his mouth, and punching him in the jaw (you have to press the button), and he even shocks protagonist Alex Mason for getting The Numbers.
- Black Ops 2 has Woods interrogating a captive Kravchenko by first slicing him across the cheek with a knife, then jamming the same knife through his whole hand after he starts getting belligerent.
- Done several times in Modern Warfare. In the first one, where Price is beating the crap out of Al-Asad for info. Though this is the only time in the series the technique doesn't yield information; but Price learns what he needs to know when Zakhaev calls anyway, so he just executes Al-Asad.
- Done twice in the Rio missions. In "Takedown" you capture Rojas's right-hand man, and MacTavish and Ghost torture him for info. In the next mission, you can see a post-torture Rojas chained to a wall with a power drill, car battery, cigarettes, etc, on a table nearby. Making this doubly creepy is that MacTavish apparently just tortured Rojas in a public street.
- In Modern Warfare 3, Price really likes to get creative: when cornering a Somali warlord, he, MacTavish and Yuri don gas masks, while Price pops a toxin canister. If the warlord talks, he gets a mask. If his trap stays shut, he'll die by the gas. He'd die anyway.
- Sandman beats up Volk at the end of "Bag and Drag", and he is presumably interrogated after "Iron Lady". They following exchange happens in the next mission.
Price: Did our man talk?
- In the remakes of Pokemon Gold And Silver, Lance gets his Dragonite to use Hyper Beam on a Rocket Grunt...FREAKING HYPER BEAM!!!
- In the remakes of the originals, Lorelei threatens another pair of Rocket grunts with an Ice Beam from her Lapras, as said Lapras is apparently very angry at Team Rocket for what they've done to its friends.
- In a revamp of the Mercy Island zone in City of Heroes, your fledgling villain can use this technique on a Longbow captive. Option 1 is to explain the horrible things you are going to do to him, while options 2 and 3 involve breaking his arm or his leg, respectively.
- In the Rogues expansion in Praetoria, you can threaten an NPC with breaking his arm and threatening to break his other arm to get information. And upon getting that information, you can then break his arm anyway as you leave.
- In PAYDAY: The Heist, you have to interrogate an NPC for access codes so that you can hack the account of the IRS out of millions of dollars. Since the crew is under constant threat from the cops, they have no time to play nice; you can keep shouting at the NPC until he spills the beans or you can even pistol whip him to make him crack, but doing it too much knocks him out for a while.
- In Hitman: Absolution, Agent 47 does a less brutal variation of this to Lenny Dexter. He drives him out to the middle of the desert and forces him to dig a hole under the sweltering heat while calmly asking where Victoria is, with the implication being that he's making him dig his own grave. While bloodless, it's certainly excruciating and it does get Lenny to spill the beans.
- In The Last of Us, when Ellie is captured, Joel decides to stop being Mr. Nice Guy and capture a couple of unfortunate mooks who cross his path. The next time we see them, one's tied to the wall, another is strapped to a chair. When the one in the chair refuses to talk, Joel plunges his knife into the man's knee, then threatens to cut off his kneecap. He starts talking pretty quickly after that. Joel then pulls out the bloody knife and puts it in the man's mouth, then tells him to mark a spot on a map, saying the other prisoner had better mark the same spot. When he does so, he kills the man in the chair, then takes the map to the man tied to the wall. When he refuses to tell Joel anything, Joel simply replies, "That's okay. I believe the first guy." Cue a massive Oh, Crap moment from the remaining prisoner, who realizes he's now useless, and Joel is still very pissed off.
- Another moment in the same game, where Tess and Joel catch up with Robert, a man who was supposed to have a large shipment of guns and weapons for them. VERY unfortunately for Robert, he already sold them to someone else. After a brutal beating, Robert tries to weasel out of it with some double-talk, until Tess becomes annoyed and has Joel break his arm. After they get all the information they can out of him, Tess rewards him with a few bullets to the head. Moral of the story: Do not double-cross Tess. It will not end well.
- The third and final time it happened, it's when Ellie is in the hands of the Fireflies about to go through a procedure that will kill her. Joel grabs a random mook, pins him to the wall with an arm and demands Ellie's location. When the man doesn't comply, Joel mutters, "I don't have time for this." and shoots the man in his groin! Suffice to say, if Joel wants to know something, you'd damned well better answer and answer fast.
- In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, while the actual techniques themselves are not shown, it is very strongly implied that interrogated aliens are not treated...humanely. The fact that they don't survive the process would give anyone pause if the threat the invaders posed wasn't so overwhelmingly disastrous. There's no time to be nice. There's only time for drilling into the skull and putting in neural implants.
- This is Chun-Li's main quirk in Project X Zone, although she's always disappointed that the Mooks don't respond after she kicks them to death.
- The player actually ends up on the receiving end of this in Metro: Last Light; after being captured by the Reds, Artyom is dragged before General Korbut and Secretary Moskvin, who each take turns with their own methods of interrogation. When Korbut fails to simply talk Artyom into spilling what he knows about the Baby Dark One, Moskvin cuts in with his own "traditional Red Army method"— aka, repeatedly punching Artyom in the face while shouting increasingly violent and colourful threats at him ("I'll fry your balls in pig fat!"). Korbut intervenes before any of them can be acted on, choosing instead to go with "science", in the form of a Mind Rape-inducing truth serum that forces Artyom to cough up the relevant intel after a traumatic flashback.
- A chilling, implied example happens in Homeworld after the "Return to Kharak" mission. During that mission, the crew of the Mothership witness the aftermath of genocide committed on their people and capture one of the enemy's rear-guard ships to question the crew on who and why had made it happen.
- In the BioShock Infinite DLC Burial at Sea Episode 2, Atlas uses this to horrifying effect on Elizabeth, attempting (and almost succeeding) to perform a trans-orbital lobotomy on her while she is fully conscious in order to get her to give up the location of the Ace in the Hole.
- Implied in Red Faction Guerrilla. One story mission in the Badlands involves nabbing EDF Colonel Broga who has information on how to get past the artillery-laden Free Fire Zone separating the Red Faction from Eos Sector. Once the colonel is nabbed Mason (the player character) mans the vehicle's turret to fend off EDF trying to kill the colonel before he spills the intel while Kepler drives and Carmen conducts the interrogation, so the player doesn't see what exactly is going on back there but can hear their conversation (it turns out to be payback for Carmen, as the colonel himself had tortured and killed her family previously - apparently she's learned quite well to terrify the colonel into a blubbering pleading wreck). And at the end, with the EDF hot on their tail the Red Faction members ditch Broga and the vehicle at full speed into the Mohole.
- Sluggy Freelance:
- Used in this Exterminatus Nowstrip. And a few after it.
- Sociopathic Hero Ken of No Need for Bushido favors this interrogation technique above all others, as seen here
- Lampshaded in this The Non-Adventures of Wonderella comic where the torturee (in this case an innocent guy Wonderella's dangling off a building) points out that this kind of interrogation never works for the above mentioned reason of him just telling his torturer what she wants to hear...then when she asks him what she wants to hear, he gives her a pep talk that moves her to tears.
- Kore in Goblins employs a variation on this trope, when one of the goblins he's hunting decides to pull a heroic last stand, distracting Kore while the rest of them flee to safety. In this case, the goal of the torture isn't to get information from the victim, but to make him scream so loudly that his comrades stop trying to flee and come to his assistance.
- Referenced in xkcd; whatever a crypto nerd might have on their computer, this trope can bypass it.
- Near the end The Last Days of FOXHOUND, Ocelot is left with Baker and told to get the Metal Gear codes out of him. Baker, unusually, squeals even before the torture begins, but Ocelot shrugs Baker's words off, even though he knows he's likely telling the truth, commenting that first he is going to make sure Baker is unable to strain his mind through the pain to make the effort to lie.
- Used by Gertrude in The KA Mics.
- Averted when Yvonne Ridley was captured by the Taliban. When she was captured by the Taliban, she was expecting to be tortured. Instead, she was treated well, fed adequately, referred to as "guest" and "sister," and even allowed to have a key to her cell. She converted to Islam after being freed. Then subverted as this only happened because she was a journalist and the Taliban wanted better publicity.
- Whenever Police Brutality is present, this happens. One example is a number of incidents involving the Chicago Police Department in February of 1982 when three CPD police officers were killed within the course of a week in the first part of the month. According to this article about Jon Burge, a detective convicted for police brutality charges, "initial interrogation procedures allegedly included shooting pets, handcuffing questioning subjects to stationary objects for day-long time periods, and holding guns to the heads of minors."
- That's not all. This comes from further down the article: The men "used methods of torture that left few marks. They were accused of slamming telephone books on top of suspect’s heads. There were also three separate electrical devices that Burge and his detectives were accused of using: a cattle prod, a hand cranked device, and a violet wand. They allegedly used an old-style hand cranked telephone which generated electricity, and attach wires to the suspect’s genitals or face. According to veteran sergeant D. J. Lewis, this was a method of torture common in the Korean War, and usually results in a confession." "The violet wand was said to be regularly placed either on the anus, into the rectum or against the victim's exposed genitals. They also used stun guns and adapted hair dryers. Burge and officers under his command also allegedly engaged in mock executions, by putting plastic bags over heads, cigarette burnings and severe beatings.
- According the David Simon in Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets (inspiration for the TV show), this is almost always the case for suspected cop-killers, who will at the very least be beaten if they give themselves up. He even notes that some of the older detectives consider this too lenient; in the olden days, they would simply be executed out of hand if caught on the street. One even says that, after a cop-killing suspect confessed, he was beaten so badly he had to go to hospital. When the local NAACP chapter sent a photographer to picture his injuries, the BPD had the man arrested on a trespassing charge.
- For many personnel in the British Army, a dreaded component of training is the Escape And Evasion exercise, where the trainee is expected to attempt to evade detection for as long as possible while others - up to and including Ghurka riflemen - seek to locate and capture him. When inevitably captured, the trainee is hooded, handcuffed, thrown into a lorry, and trucked to an interrogation centre where he is subjected to intense interrogation - sleep deprivation, un-natural bodily positions, low-level violence and psychological torture are all used, over a period of no less than forty-eight hours and often seventy-two. Giving away anything but your name, rank and serial number is a fail, and the hapless subject has to do it all over again. This is routine for SAS/SBS prospective recruits, as well as officer candidates, key personnel in Intelligence, RAF pilots, and others. Many SAS memoirs dwell on this part of the training process, which is truly horrible but at least gives a taste of what may happen if captured. What is very carefully not said is that the British Army must by default also be training others in giving low-level torture. This may substantiate allegations made by Irish republican prisoners, and latterly by detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- HEAVILY averted regarding various forms of "enhanced interrogation" techniques on detainees between 2001 and 2006 following the September 11 attacks. Unclassified portions of The Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program, commonly known as "the CIA Torture Report", detailed actions by CIA officials, and shortcomings of the detention project (amounting to systemic mistreatment of prisoners). These portions, including key findings and an executive summary of the full report, were released on December 9, 2014.
- The first key finding? "The CIA's use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees."