Unthinkable

Posted on by AdamSaleh1987 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

This movie came out 2010, why hasn’t anyone talked about it? Because everyone was too busy waiting for Harry Potter (deus ex machina for idiots). This move asks questions that no one is willing to answer. The story is as follows: An American born Muslim convert plants three nuclear bombs around the country and purposefully gets captured in order to be tortured. An independent agent (Samuel L. Jackson) uses enhanced interrogation methods to find where the bombs are before it is too late. He enlists the help of an FBI agent Brody (played by Carrie Anne Moss AKA Trinity). The movie vacillates between finding sympathy for the terrorist and questioning the moral rectitude of torture but also maintaining that the ends justify the means.

The ending is quite a shock but asks many questions without giving the answers. Although it’s a great concept, I can’t help but feel the makers of the film use Islamic terrorism as a way to make the viewer accept the premise but also that the terrorist is actually born white so as to not be “too racist.” A lot of the final act feels like a cop out. As a Muslim/Arab myself, I was not at all offended, but I feel that the culture would be way too offended (see: South Park, Danish Cartoons). I also find it ironic that Trinity is again fighting an agent in a post 9/11 world just as she was in a movie that preceded 9/11 by not too much. 

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32 Responses to Unthinkable

  1. Pastabagel says:

    The problem with a film like this is that people want it to give an answer, but the answer they want does not reflect the reality. The reality is that politicians have to say that torture is bad and that they would never do it, but also that secretly they would torture and that the public secretly wants them to do it.

    The mistake the Bush administration made is drawing back the curtain. Yes, we know you would torture in this situation, but you aren’t supposed to say that.

    • JohnJ says:

      I’ve often been bewildered by the way that people seek plausible deniability by demanding politicians say things that everyone knows are lies. It’s no wonder that politics is about claiming the appearance of a moral high ground, which, of course, makes it a fight between “good” and “evil”.

      “Why can’t people see that my politicians are the good guys?”

      • Lopt says:

        Trust me on this, people are really being serious when they say “we should not be torturing people”. It’s not just piousness or some sort of posturing made from a feeling of perceived safety. Sometimes people do advance a position from a moral standpoint to secure a rhetorical advantage.

        Take some time to seriously consider that. Whether or not you personally would torture someone if you found yourself in that (insanely contrived) situation is for you to consider on your own. Making it state policy, however, is seriously fucked up on a number of different grounds: 1) Torture is of questionable utility for procuring information, 2) it sets a precedent for torturing other ‘enemies of the state’, ranging from actual POWs to criminals to whatever 3) it is, however you look at it, not a very nice thing to do, and is probably against whatever internal moral code many citizens believe in and practice.

        • JohnJ says:

          I don’t believe people are serious about not torturing. I believe they’re serious about wanting to not know that torture is going on. Especially when they advance silly arguments like “torture doesn’t work.” When someone says something like that, I know they haven’t put any thought into it whatsoever. They only care about appearing morally superior.

          Torture is not a nice thing to do? Well, neither is putting people in prison, but we do it anyways. It’s against many people’s moral code to kidnap someone and lock them in their basement, but we still have prisons, and we still have black sites too.

          For the record, I am firmly opposed to torture because we have alternatives that work just as effectively. Granted, it’s not an argument that allows me to cloak myself in moral superiority, but it’s realistic.

          • Lopt says:

            Like I said, seriously consider the possibility that there are people out there who have weighed the issues, understand the stakes, and don’t want people tortured on their behalf. I am one of them. It doesn’t make me feel morally superior; its kind of one of those baseline bits of human dignity that I thought was more or less accepted.

            You obviously agree that it’s a bad thing, so I think we just disagree over whether the stakes justify it in lieu of the alternatives. Like you said, there are other options which are much more useful in extracting information, and these options don’t expose you to a slippery slope or moral crisis.

            As an aside, our policy on imprisonment (whether of our nationals or “unlawful combatants”) is pretty messed up too. I think that might explain a bit about why you, Pastabagel and others can’t accept the possibility of someone genuinely disagreeing without faux-rightiousness, if you take for granted that everyone’s with you on a whole host of other policies too. If everyone did, torture would just be the next logical step in the progression, rather than something worth abjuring and disavowing on moral (if not practical) grounds.

          • JohnJ says:

            Those people are few and far between. Most people think about torture the way they think about everything else: in the most superficial way possible. Most people choose positions on everything before they have any real facts at hand, and that goes for torture as well as the most controversial issues of the day, such as abortion, homosexuality, war, welfare, etc. Most people think about everything this way. They just choose a position based on, among other things, opposing the group they see as evil. “Well, if they’re against it, it must be a good idea!”

          • philtrum says:

            Okay, but it doesn’t follow that people who express their opinions in moral terms are misrepresenting what they really believe in order to feel morally superior to other people.

            One could as easily say that people who endorse torture aren’t really in favour of torture, they’re cheaply feeding their own self-image as tough-minded realists who do (or rather, want others to do) what it takes to Keep Our Nation Safe, etc.

            I’m not even quite sure about your point, really. If I do something that I believe is good when I don’t really feel like it, because it will maintain my self-image and allow me to avoid guilt, is that a despicable attempt to appear better than other people when I’m not? Is the correct course of action to just do what I feel like doing because otherwise I’m being dishonest?

          • JohnJ says:

            It doesn’t follow just from that. But that’s like saying that it doesn’t follow from what I said that the moon is round. The fact that it’s true is independent of what I said before.

            In other words, I can’t say that it’s true about any particular person, but I can say that it seems to be true about people in general.

            Where have I heard that argument before?

          • philtrum says:

            It doesn’t follow just from that. But that’s like saying that it doesn’t follow from what I said that the moon is round. The fact that it’s true is independent of what I said before.

            But the shape of the moon is empirically provable. You may believe that most people who claim to oppose torture are just lying to save face among liberals, but you can’t prove that it’s true.

          • philtrum says:

            More to the point, when you state a position and explain it, it’s usually safe to assume you’re offering some kind of evidence for your position and not a tasty platter of red herrings. “What I said is true, even if my explanation for it doesn’t make sense” is not a very powerful argument.

          • JohnJ says:

            Really? You believe that most people have thoughtful, well-considered positions on controversial issues?

            I challenge you to empirically prove that, or stop placing standards on other people that you can’t live up to yourself.

            My bet is that you’ll do neither.

          • philtrum says:

            Really? You believe that most people have thoughtful, well-considered positions on controversial issues?

            I believe many people do, but that is just what I believe. I am not claiming that what I believe is a fact. I can’t prove it. But you changed the subject: my argument with you concerned whether people who claim to believe something you don’t want them to believe are lying about holding that belief. I don’t think there’s any reason to assume they are.

          • philtrum says:

            We’ve been through this before, re: racism: white people who claim to believe that white privilege exists cannot possibly be telling the truth, we are lying too, just trying to make ourselves feel like better people than you. Why do you repeatedly choose to explain it that way when people disagree with you?

          • JohnJ says:

            You believe things that you don’t think are true? Well,that explains a lot.

          • philtrum says:

            Your definition of “fact” is so bizarre that I have to conclude you are trolling.

          • JohnJ says:

            Your definition of “believe” certainly has room for improvement. And if you think I’m trollling, please just ignore me. We’ll both be much happier that way.

          • AnonymousAtLarge says:

            I don’t know if I would necessarily believe anything stated from a man being tortured in order to procure the statement. Personally I would probably say whatever I had to say if I was being tortured, wehther it was true or not. There have been false confessions extracted this way. Forcing someone to do something – out of your OWN frustration and powerless – does not make the something true.

            The real reason we torture people for confessions is because we are frustrated by our limitations, our inability to know and solve or resolve problems and crimes, so we get a bunch of dudes and torture them until they say what we want to hear, so we feel satisfied that it’s a case closed… even though it’s not. We just want a face and a name to satisfy our nebulous outrage.

          • JohnJ says:

            Seriously, that’s just wrong. Countries around the world torture, and they have throughout all of history. The reason they do so is because torture is a cheap, fast way to get information.

            I oppose torture, but saying that it doesn’t work is a flimsy rationalization. Worse, it undermines the antitorture movement because it’s so easily disproven. If you oppose torture because it doesn’t work, and then you find out that, well, ya, it actually does work, what does that do to your opposition to it? For people whose opposition has nothing to do with logic, it doesn’t do anything. But some people actually do change their minds in response to new information.

    • Guy Fox says:

      Is your misanthropy affected or earnest, Pastabagel? Sure, many people want other people to torture, but other people don’t want to do it or to delegate it. You talk a lot about the incorrigibility of the nebulous social mass you see outside your window, but you write things on that window that are at least implicitly directed towards bringing them to reason (or at least a less pathological unreason). Just qualify a bit more, will ya? Not everyone is as irrevocably corrupt as your monolithic ‘public’, man.

      • Fifi says:

        The problem is we’re all “the public” – excluding oneself from this and concluding THEY are irrevocably corrupt is a kind of silly kind of othering that ignores the reality of what “the public” actually is. It’s actually a way of trying to assert moral superiority and individuality by stripping away the individuality of other people who are part of the “public” just like we all are. (Unless we’re royalty or in some position where we aren’t just part of the general public and masses.)

  2. BluegrassJack says:

    Has anyone explained the reason for us to accept people wearing civilian clothes and flying an airplane into an office building as “soldiers”?
    Masochism (not the sexual one) may be the reason, but that’s just pathetic.

  3. lilin says:

    See, I think the movie asks questions that no one has to answer, because they’re absurd. They know who the guy is and can find his wife and kids but have no idea where he’s been the last few days? A man is crazy enough to think that planting bombs in United States cities will achieve his nebulous evil goal but sane enough to get his hands on multiple nuclear weapons?

    And then he confesses beforehand because – why?

    I think the movie is foolish because it puts clarity into what necessarily is a murky situation. It lets people know without a doubt that a guy knows the exact locations of various bombs – but that’s not how it works in the real world. It’s rare to know if someone actually has valuable information that they can be tortured for, or even that they are involved at all. The question isn’t just, “Would you do it if you knew it would save millions of lives.” The question is “How likely is it that this guy knows the info that would save millions of lives?” “Is this the fastest way to question him?” “Is this the most efficient way?” “If I get bad information, because he’s just some schlub who can’t take getting tortured anymore, how much time will it waste?” “How bad is the threat to begin with?”

    A pure hypothetical like this isn’t a hard question. It’s a silly one that ignores practical reality.

    • Matt04 says:

      I think the point of stripping away the murkiness is to force the audience to confront the deeper issue of consequential vs. categorical morality. Is it even possible for torture of children to be moral, or is it something that is never permissible?

      • ExOttoyuhr says:

        Torture of children…?!

        The tunes the US plays when it’s their own ox being gored versus someone else’s are not even remotely similar to each other. City on a hill, my foot. I think most of this double standard traces back to the Puritans…

  4. inarticulateinthecity says:

    Stopped reading at “(deus ex machina for idiots)”. And I don’t give a rat’s ass for Harry Potter.

  5. AdamSaleh1987 says:

    Pat yourself on the back, inarticulateinthecity.

    As for everyone else, the film justifies the concept of torture by saying that it works if only the enemy would identify himself and explain his plot to begin with. It assumes too many givens, stylistically the movie was well made and acted, I can’t help that this is fantasy dressed up as “high concept”.

  6. cliche says:

    “I can’t help but feel the makers of the film use Islamic terrorism as a way to make the viewer accept the premise but also that the terrorist is actually born white so as to not be “too racist.””

    I’d say it’s a way to confirm viewer’s prejudices that Islam = terrorism.
    A white guy becomes a Muslim and just happens to commit terrorism?
    White guys don’t do that, it must’ve been the Islam!

    • boeotarch says:

      The IRS bomber was just some lone weirdo who did it because he was crazy. What’s terrifying about Muslim terrorists is that it’s accepted that they’re not just crazy people, Islamic terrorism is seen as a culture and a movement. And, frankly, to make a movie about a non-Muslim terrorist in a media environment where half our news is either a confirmation or a refutation of Islamophobia would be pretty disingenuous.

      • cliche says:

        They could have made it any fundamentalist system.
        Like that Christian militia group that were stockpiling weapons and plotting assassinations.
        The idea that Islam is the only religion that can produce crazy fundies is disingenuous.

        Fundies believe they are the chosen people and anyone else is not a “true scotsman”, aka an Infidel. The majority of people killed by fundie Muslims are other Muslims; they are not a united and homogeneous group of freedom haters.
        But that’s not what we want to hear, so Hollywood and the media tell us what we want.

  7. cat says:

    I think that this aspect of the film – a white guy, “one of us” becoming a Muslim and trying to destroy “our” society – is more about playing on the deep-seated but often unarticulated anxiety and fear that Western society is threatened from within by outsiders infiltrating our ranks. There was a similar shock! horror! story recently in the UK’s Daily Mail (a popular tabloid rag famous for its right-wing anti-immigration leanings) that ran along the lines of “Our [white] son was a normal boy from a good [middle class] family, but then he became a Muslim fanatic and now he insists that his mother wear a veil.”

    • AdamSaleh1987 says:

      In that publication’s defense, most Muslim in Europe are sapping away welfare without contributing and adding a lot to the crime in that area of the world.

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