This film poses the question of whether or not prisoners should be tortured and, as the pendulum swings back and fore, so the audience is manipulated and finally forced to make a choice as the filmmakers, wisely, don’t do that for us.
Yusef (Michael Sheen) is an American citizen who has converted to Islam. He sends a video to a TV network announcing that he has planted three nuclear bombs in three different US cities. He gets arrested and Henry ‘H’ Humphries (Samuel L Jackson), a black-ops agent, and Helen Brody (Carrie-Anne Moss), an FBI agent, are assigned to interrogate him. They have three days to complete their mission.
‘H’ is a seasoned interrogator and although his task is grisly, and only a sadist could carry it out, he somehow convinces us that this is not so and that the true requirement for his job is bravery, and there are very few who are strong enough to come up to the task. As we listen to his golden tongue, it’s hard not to be swayed and ultimately to become implicit in his deadly deeds.
In the other corner, of course, is Helen Brody, and therein lies the rub. Not only does she lack the stature to be a highly-placed agent, but becomes very irritating when she’s squawking around the place, reciting the Geneva Convention to anyone who will listen.
Later in the film, when she is faced with some dire consequences, she totally loses control and, as the only pivotal female in the film, this display of emotion turns her into something of a cliche. Obviously, all films have to have two points of view and it would, of course, have been too much of a stretch to make her the torturer, but it would have been far more interesting to see her in the role of the head honcho, who gives the go ahead for the torture, especially if she’d gone to the bathroom afterwards to give her hands a good scrub when we were expecting her to have a weep.
Surprisingly, this intriguing film has gone straight to DVD. Is that because the content is too gory for a theatrical release, or because the subject is too political? If it’s the former, there’s always plenty of time to look away, and if it’s the latter, it’s possible to look the other way on that count too, and if that’s not enough, there’s always the hand washing to fall back on. I believe that one worked quite well before.
RELEASE DATES Available now on DVD