Yusuf (Michael Sheen), formerly known as Steven Younger, sent a homemade recording to government agencies, where he announced that he has hidden three identical nuclear bombs in three American cities and they will explode in just over six days, unless his demands are met; he will issue the demands soon. What follows is an examination of the usefulness of, and the government's right to, torture suspects in extreme cases. On the torture-is-bad side, we have FBI Agent Helen Brody (Carrie-Anne Moss) and her team, who investigate the hundreds of (usually useless) tips from citizens regarding possible terrorists on American soil. In the middle are the suits, the higher-ups that want plausible deniability in case any torture is made public, but also want results at any cost. On the torture-is-effective side, we have
I am normally a fan of Samuel L. Jackson in just about anything, but this is the most cartoony effort I have seen from him. And I don't appreciate the man for his subtle acting skills.
|Case in point.|
What makes this movie underwhelming is the sheer number of moments that made me ask, "Really?" aloud. In an absolutely irrelevant bit of plot, Agent Brody's team is sent to question every single person they are keeping tabs on, which happens to include H's Islamic wife. H, being a bad-ass, takes down (but doesn't kill) the first agents that show up at his house; he does bad things for a living, so who knows if those are fake badges, right? Well, H is then questioned and then the governmental higher-ups have him released, only to return to the movie less than five minutes later as Mr. Interrogator. What was the point of all that? Why not just introduce him as the interrogator and cut the rest? This movie was twenty minutes longer than it needed to be, and it's only 90-some minutes long! And why did all this happen? The CIA accidentally sent over a file on H and his family to the FBI --- and that is not a building block for any other plot lines. It's just, "Oh, the CIA mail boy is stupid, finds confidential files, and mails them to random government agencies."
The worst part of the whole movie is the ending. SPOILER ALERT, IN CASE YOU STILL WANT TO SEE THIS CRAPPY MOVIE. All along, it has been said that Yusuf stole between 15 and 18 pounds of fissionable bomb-making-stuff. All along, it has been said that each of his three bombs has 4.5 pounds of the fissionable stuff in it. If you do the math, that adds up to 13.5 pounds of danger fuel, which implies that there is a fourth bomb somewhere. I figured that out on my own, about a third of the way through the movie, but H is the only character that figured it out, and he doesn't mention it until the last few minutes. So, maybe it's a twist. That could be, but Yusuf manages to commit suicide before the fourth bomb is proved or disproved, and the movie ends moments later, with Agent Brody taking Yusuf's children out of whatever building all this took place in. Fade to black, roll credits, and forget that there was a twist only three minutes earlier, where a nuclear weapon was left unaccounted for. I have to admit, this is the first time I have seen a movie where the heroes are looking for a nuke, don't find it, and then the movie ends. Normally, I would call that sort of plot development moronic, but in this case I'll call it unthinkable.