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Blu-Ray Review: ‘Unthinkable’ Wastes First-Rate Cast, Solid Premise

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CHICAGO – Samuel L. Jackson is an A-list actor stuck in the persona of a B-movie crowd-pleaser. His preference for schlock has made it difficult for viewers to take him seriously in roles that aren’t intended to be quoted by fanboys at Comic-Con. When his formidable interrogator in “Unthinkable” declares, “What I have to do, Agent Brody, is…unthinkable,” the line hits the exact wrong note of credibility-killing cheese that has marred Jackson’s career.

Of course, Jackson cannot be solely blamed for the multitude of flaws in the direct-to-video thriller “Unthinkable.” Director Gregor Jordan (“The Informers”) and screenwriter Peter Woodward (“Closing the Ring”) continue their slump into forgettable mediocrity by squandering a powerful and topical premise that has been tackled in a variety of recent pictures (the most memorable being “The Dark Knight”). It asks the obvious question of how a war on terror can be won without America resorting to the same inhumane tactics of the terrorists. Should interrogators resort to the torture of innocent children in order to acquire information that would prevent the death of millions?

HollywoodChicago.com Blu-Ray Rating: 2.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 2.5/5.0

This is profoundly serious subject matter worthy of an intelligent investigation onscreen, but Jordan and Woodward undermine it by taking the most routine approach possible. “Unthinkable” plays like the extended pilot for “24” knock-off, though its political position is decidedly more liberal. While the script tries to feign even-handedness, it’s clear that the filmmakers have no belief in the effectiveness of torture as a means of obtaining accurate confessions. That’s a fair stand to take, but the filmmakers convey it so clumsily that some viewers may feel convinced that the film actually endorses the torture policies promoted by Dick Cheney. Carrie Anne-Moss struggles mightily to strengthen her character, FBI agent Brody, who embodies the voice of female compassion, and thus, the argument against torture. Yet she just spends most of the time gawking at the fearsome methods of interrogator “H” (Jackson), who’s hellbent on making the life of U.S. nuclear expert-turned-Islamic terrorist Steven/Yusuf (Michael Sheen) a living hell.

Unthinkable was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on June 15th, 2010.
Unthinkable was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on June 15th, 2010.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Jordan’s cynical view of the American military has been apparent ever since his 2001 satire “Buffalo Soldiers,” and the recent atrocities at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib certainly would seem to justify his sentiments. But “Unthinkable” is too murky and contrived to truly provoke. Sheen’s character is the most interesting, yet he doesn’t have much to do, apart from screaming. When he reveals his demands to the US government, they sound fairly level-headed, and undoubtedly mirror the views of many Americans. His story would’ve been a far more engaging centerpiece for the picture, and Sheen’s ferocious portrayal is a startling alternative to his trademark channeling of shifty Brits (he’d be a splendid choice for the role of BP Chief Tony Hayward).

“Unthinkable” is presented in 1080p High Definition (with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio), and offers an “unrated extended version” of the film that is a whopping two minutes longer than the original cut. The sole addition is an alternate ending that was added in after a test audience responded negatively to the script’s open-ended denouement. It feels as tacked-on as the final shot in “Basic Instinct,” where all ambiguity is shattered by a key detail. The new ending also blatantly emphasizes the filmmakers’ political slant on the material, though it ultimately doesn’t make the film any better or worse than it already is. The BD-Live-enabled disc also includes a movieIQ track, and an audio commentary from Jordan.

To his credit, Jordan makes the commentary a worthwhile listen by delving into the complex moral issues he had hoped to address in the film. However, he does seem blind to the fact that no film made about the current war, and certainly about the torture of prisoners, has ever connected with the mainstream public. He says that he aimed to entertain viewers who aren’t interested in politics, but are just looking for an efficient entry in the horror-thriller genre, likening his film to “Seven” and “Silence of the Lambs” (a comparison that seems borderline offensive under the circumstances). Jordan claims that he improved Woodward’s script by cutting out most (but not enough) of the speechifying, and making the character of Agent Brody more authoritative and less of a passive whiner. When Obama was elected halfway through the shooting, Jordan felt that the script had already become dated. He acknowledges, but doesn’t elaborate on, the film’s troubled pre-production, which took place in the midst of the actor’s strike and global financial crisis, and led to the film’s failure to secure a theatrical release. Jordan’s most interesting insights center on his onset conversations with a “torture advisor,” and his diplomatic relationship with the image-conscious FBI.

‘Unthinkable’ is released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and stars Samuel L. Jackson, Carrie-Anne Moss, Michael Sheen, Stephen Root, Lora Kojovic, Martin Donovan, Brandon Routh, Michael Rose and Holmes Osbourne. It was written by Peter Woodward and directed by Gregor Jordan. It was released on June 15th, 2010. It is rated R.

HollywoodChicago.com staff writer Matt Fagerholm

Staff Writer

Buffalo Soldier 9's picture

Buffalo Soldiers

Keep telling that history:

Read the novel, Rescue at Pine Ridge, “RaPR”, where Buffalo Bill Cody meets a Buffalo Soldier. A great story of black military history…the first generation of Buffalo Soldiers.

How do you keep a people down? ‘Never’ let them ‘know’ their history.

The 7th Cavalry got their butts in a sling again after the Little Big Horn Massacre, fourteen years later, the day after the Wounded Knee Massacre. If it wasn’t for the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, there would of been a second massacre of the 7th Cavalry.

Read the novel, “Rescue at Pine Ridge”, 5 stars Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the youtube trailer commercial…and visit the website http://www.rescueatpineridge.com

I hope you’ll enjoy the novel. I wrote it from my mini-series movie of the same title, “RaPR” to keep my story alive. Hollywood has had a lot of strikes and doesn’t like telling our stories…its been “his-story” of history all along…until now. The movie so far has attached, Bill Duke directing, Hill Harper, Glynn Turman, James Whitmore Jr. and a host of other major actors in which we are in talks with…see imdb.com at; http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0925633/

When you get a chance, also please visit our Alpha Wolf Production website at; http://www.alphawolfprods.com and see our other productions, like Stagecoach Mary, the first Black Woman to deliver mail for Wells Fargo in Montana, in the 1890’s, “spread the word”. Peace.

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