Newest Review: ... of even the most avid film buffs, it is no wonder that there are so many movies going direct to DVD, as this one did in the UK. It's ... more
"The loser... just loses." (FILM ONLY)
Member Name: PoignantBob
Date: 09/11/12, updated on 09/11/12 (41 review reads)
Advantages: Brave undertaking handled with balanced approach. Some decent filmmaking, with occasional thrills.
Disadvantages: Fails to meet its own demands in more ways than one, petering out at last.
It's a normal day at the office in the Counter-Terrorism Unit of the FBI Los Angeles Field Office. Agent Helen Brody (Carrie-Anne Moss) is going about her daily business, delegating tasks for the day and being firm but fair with one particularly over-eager agent, when suddenly a news report sends her down a path she couldn't possibly have seen coming. Steven Arthur Younger (or Yusuf as he prefers to be called, played by Michael Sheen), a devout American Muslim, is on the run from the authorities as a suspected terrorist. Almost as soon as Agent Brody is able to put the feelers out in an attempt to find him, she is swept away to a secret location where Younger is already being held and is keeping secret the locations of three nuclear bombs he has planted for the purposes of mass destruction. Brody is quickly, and reluctantly, recruited by the mysterious Henry Harold 'H' Humphries (Samuel L. Jackson) to assist him in his questionable methods of interrogation. Dragged down a path of intense physical and psychological torture methods, Agent Brody will question the very foundations of her personal ethics as H becomes more and more determined to find the locations of the three bombs in question.
The film is not without its plus points. It's a fairly brave undertaking in this day and age to create an American film that questions the manner in which its own government treats its dissidents. Without choosing sides, the at times intelligent script manages to argue both sides with some degree of reason, whilst at times shooting both sides down by showing their representatives (in character form) to be increasingly uncertain of the approach they argue the toss for. Michael Sheen is wonderful in his role as the strong-minded but ultimately broken protagonist and later into the film delivers the best monologue available with aplomb. The rest of the cast do a mostly decent job with the material available to them, but do seem at times a little uncomfortable with the twisty-turny arcs they are forced to follow. Jackson manages to be typically brilliant now and again, but whereas his H becomes more fractured and dangerous as the story develops, the acting performance becomes less and less convincing to me. Which is frustrating, since fractured and dangerous is something he usually excels at.
Where Unthinkable fails most of all is in its confusion about what kind of thriller it really is. Alongside its central theme of political commentary as race-against-time flick is a psycho-thriller about a man so determined to find the truth he is willing to take any steps he deems necessary, seeming to relish more and more the opportunity to punish a man he sees as nothing other than a source of information. Genre mixing can be a great thing when handled properly, and some of the greatest films of all time can be credited with finding a perfect balance of two or more genres, but the lines need to be seamless for it to work. Not so here, where this viewer felt as though he was being dragged from one kind of film to another without any real reason for it. Along with this, regular on-the-nose streams of dialogue and some pretty poor editing lead to the message being rammed down the audiences throat in a manner that is nothing short of preachy and uncomfortable for the majority of the film. This is no more present than in the final ten minutes, where Peter Woodward (who wrote the film) seems to have run out of things to say and closes proceedings in the least shocking, most noticeably contrived way possible.
All that being said, I have not been put off of Jordan's work for good. As previously mentioned, I really enjoyed his Buffalo Soldiers and have now been intrigued by his film The Informers, based on a novel by Bret Easton Ellis. There are flashes of decent filmmaking in Unthinkable, but these parts in no way manage to improve the whole to the extent that this is a truly enjoyable experience. The simple truth is that it's never anything more than decent and for much of the running time can be described as nothing more than shoddy. In such a saturated market, where films that initially seem as interesting as this one did manage to escape the attention of even the most avid film buffs, it is no wonder that there are so many movies going direct to DVD, as this one did in the UK. It's a shame to have to say it, but sometimes, as with Unthinkable, that's exactly where some films belong. Had I paid for a cinema ticket to watch this, I would not only be wanting some of my time back, but also a decent chunk of my money.
Summary: Should have been much more than it is. Confused, forced and at times incredibly frustrating.