The Corner


A few weeks ago I had an e-exchange with a reader about the efficacy of torture. It soon ended up, as those exchanges always do, with the “ticking bomb” scenario. (I.e. a nuke is about to go off in some city. We have a guy in custody who knows the location, but would much rather not tell us. What do we do?)

Well, my reader recommended I watch the movie Unthinkable. I’d never heard of it. (Neither had the couple of people I’ve mentioned it to at work this morning.) So I put it on our Netflix list & we watched it Saturday evening.

Very good movie. It follows all the “ticking bomb” arguments to a (I’m not quite ready to say the) logical conclusion. Samuel Jackson is at the top of his form.

Having watched it, I am now speculating about why it didn’t get more notice in the U.S. Not to mention proper distribution: it apparently went straight to DVD. (It’s date-stamped 2010.) Possibly it was just too politically incorrect. The terrorist who plants the nukes (Michael Sheen — another good performance) is an American convert to Islam. As everyone knows, movie terrorists have to be neo-Nazis with Cherrman accents, or Tim McVeigh-type hate-government loners … or soon, no doubt, members of Tea Party splinter groups.

Or perhaps the distributors thought it was just too strong. The torture scenes aren’t actually that bad — nothing like as bad as the stuff in routine splatter movies. The logic of the situation is shown very relentlessly, though. No movie could make me like a torturer; but I couldn’t push away the thought that Samuel Jackson was getting the better of all the arguments.

Well, see it and make up your own mind. Unthinkable is at least a fine example of an abstract argument turned into a strong drama. It ain’t Shakespeare, but it’s better than the average movie. In my house a movie has to pass the Dad Test: i.e. keep me awake all through after a good dinner and a couple of glasses of wine. Around one movie in three passes the Dad Test. This one passed easily.

Oh, P.S. If you rent the DVD, be sure to watch the extended version — there’s an option on the DVD main menu.

Most Popular

Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More