Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I watched this movie and then decided to see what others thought of it on IMDb. Surprisingly, few reviewers that I read were able to appreciate the point of the movie.
A terrorist reveals by video he has planted 3 nuclear bombs somewhere in the U.S. He allows himself to be captured and is tortured to reveal the locations of these nuclear bombs. He expects to be tortured and is prepared for it. As Helen Brody of the FBI says to him, "you have won, by making us torture you, you have proved that we are no better than terrorists".
I've always held the opinion that torture is justifiable when the lives of many are more important than the life of one individual. This movie has made me review my beliefs.
Unlike Jack Bauer of 24, extreme physical torture doesn't yield instant results. The point is made in the movie that a person tortured will confess to anything but will they reveal critical information?
Most movies exist as entertainment but how many also create philosophical dilemmas? As entertainment, "Unthinkable" keeps the viewer on the edge of the seat, it is horrifying in it's portrayal of torture, but in no way does it condemn the U.S. Any reviewer who feels that way has his head up his arse. There are week links in the plot but then if you analyse any movie you will find such weak links which in themselves don't detract from what the movie is about.
There are two questions that permeate the movie:
1. is torture justifiable?
2. can torture yield accurate strategic information?
H argues that torture has been used for thousands of years so it must be effective. This movie makes you question that line of argument.

The characters present for and against arguments for torture as the story progresses. By the end of the movie, even the most morally upright character Helen Brody, loses her high ground and gives in to her fear and frustration with the suspect and succumbs to the urge to hurt him. So, we may ponder, is torture an expression of our human instinct, based upon fear, do we forget our moral high ground?

And by the very end of the movie, the title becomes clear and apparent, would we ever consider the unthinkable if brought to our knees by a terrorist? Again the issue is this, fear for the lives of millions against the human rights of one person. At what point do we and can we justify inhumanity? Do we still remain moral beings if we contemplate the unthinkable?
Reminds me of this philosophical/ethical question "does the end justify the means?"
Discuss it amongst yourselves.


Jen said...

I will add this to my queue.

Lex, have you seen The Stoning of Soraya M.? I still can't figure out why I think it's so important for people to see this movie, unless it's a person who denies that stonings occur. Sometimes it's necessary to see the brutality to know what you're dealing with.

Jeannie said...

I think torture is wrong but less wrong than allowing many more people to be harmed. If there were another way to extract information, I'm sure it would be used. Except that I'm sure some folks would find a way to gain pleasure out of hurting others.
Also, torture gives an appropriate job to those who DO enjoy hurting others. Sadly.

Northern Ireland didn't have a lot of break-ins and such back in the days of the troubles. Killings and such were "controlled" by the organizations and I think the people inclined to violence and rebellion would join up and then could only act under orders. Drugs and break-ins have flourished now that the IRA no longer has a job for those folks.

Lexcen said...

Jen, no I haven't. I have seen actual video footage and pictures of barbaric practices such as stonings on the web but they are actively censored, especially on Youtube.
Are you are referring to a one on one comparison as to whether torture can be justified when dealing with people of a barbaric culture that practice Sharia Law?

Lexcen said...

Jeannie, interesting point about giving legitimacy to psychopaths by employing them to perform a task.

Lexcen said...

Jeannie, interesting point about giving legitimacy to psychopaths by employing them to perform a task.

Jen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jen said...

When I read your post about the ethics of torture, I immediately thought about the stonings practiced by muslims. It is indeed an ethical delimma when we are faced with an enemy who has no conscience. It seems like torture may be the only way to "break" that enemy, but then do we lose our conscience in the process?

pbtht. I can't spell worth a damn...

Damien said...


I've never heard of this movie before.