Some of the events in Unthinkable are casual. A man has planted three nuclear weapons around the country, and is being tortured via electrocution for their locations. Despite this grisly scene, a soldier guarding the area is seen shaving, as if he is oblivious to the events behind him.
Morals are at odds here, complex ones as well, while Harry Humphries (Samuel L. Jackson) begins to employ increasingly drastic measures to seek the information. As the torture becomes more aggressive, painful, and cruel, FBI agent Helen Brody (Carrie-Anne Moss) keeps up her fight to protect this possible terrorist.
Much of Unthinkable becomes a building morality play, questioning how far we should go against our own beliefs as Americans and even as humans. It establishes itself and its characters at a slow burn, letting the possibilities seep in. When Unthinkable takes hold, especially in the final 20-minutes, it as gripping a thriller as you will find.
This is a small scale film, most of the budget undoubtedly spent on the actors. The few locations can become tiresome, and some of the writing from Peter Woodward painfully acted out. What sounded like a great line on paper, that of Helen asking her superior to follow the Constitution and him replying, “There will be no Constitution!” comes off as forced, campy, and drastically eliminates the intended tone. Samuel L. Jackson even gets to speak the title in another sequence of high camp, completely inappropriate given the build of momentum at this juncture of the film.
Where Unthinkable ends, exposing a bit of a plot hole in the process, leaves it open to the viewers interpretation, the proper way to end to avoid exposing political bias some would call the film out for. It is a difficult situation with no clean answer, one that opens debate amongst viewers, making them question their own stance. That gives the film a bit of unexpected power, a lasting impression that makes the entire process worth sitting through, despite the scripting and budget constraints.
This one comes from Sony, a generally beautifully rendered AVC encode with exceptional fine detail. Facial detail remains firm in all but a few scenes, delivering hints of texture in the mid-range with satisfying consistency. Samuel L. Jackson has one of those incredibly deep, rough faces, perfect for HD fanatics to gush over when discussing high fidelity detail. There is little question his major close-up in the final moments at 1:27:31 is reference.
Unthinkable utilizes a flat, cold palette, but the loss of color depth does not cause the image to appear any less striking. Black levels carry tremendous punch, and the bright contrast is consistent to create an image with plenty of pop. A thick grain structure is always evident, at times causing problems (chroma noise at 2:57 against the gray cubicles), but is generally within reason and suited to the photography.
However, it does seem heightened, and leading to that possibility this was slightly sharpened. Ringing around high contrast edges is common and even distracting, first noted about the FBI agent at 3:55, in the lower left of his suit. Halos become a bit too frequent, including 11:46 around Jackson’s face/chin, and 51:20 around the left side of Moss. All of the stock footage and security camera footage looks as expected, although they really need to turn down their sharpness.
Certain scenes do not hold firm either, especially as the lighting becomes dimmer along with the situation in the plot. A shot past the hour mark at 1:00:31 is murky and soft, the same thing that happens at 1:10:00 during a conversation. The black levels here take a small dip, and that facial detail that was so prevalent is eroded. These scenes are few, and pass quickly.
A closed-off, isolated thriller provides few moments of any distinct audio. The DTS-HD effort provides its best power during day transitions, the cards stating what day it is greeted by a powerful low-end jolt stronger than anything else in the film. A large explosion cannot even compare, nor does the shotgun fire late. Both are meager and weak in comparison.
Dialogue is fine, balanced well at a steady volume so even whispers are evident. Clarity is up to par, including a slight echo to most of the scenes given their open, barren quarters. A slight bit of tracking is evident as a helicopter passes by the frame at 1:04:14, moving from the sides to the rears in a clean transition.
Extras include a commentary from director Gregor Jordan, trailers, BD-Live, and MovieIQ support.