Unflinching, by Scott Nye
There’s no real use in discussing Big Bad Wolves without getting into heavy, heavy spoiler territory, at least for me. Others might do better, I don’t know. Suffice to say that I found it enormously refreshing, surprisingly funny, and very, very tense. If you have an opportunity to see it, and can handle quite a lot of violence and torture, you totally should, and then roll back this way and click past the jump to get my full thoughts on it.
Back in 2007, a little movie called Rendition came out. You might be lucky enough to not remember it. It’s not good. It tells the story of a guy who gets arrested, detained, and tortured as part of the United States’ extraordinary rendition program just because he’s suspected of terrorist activities, and might have information on those forthcoming. It’d be a little heavy-handed and forced no matter what, but it’s sunk especially by the final revelation that he is, in fact, totally innocent of the crimes with which he was charged. I don’t know any right person who sees a moral conundrum here – it’s wrong to imprison people you cannot prove to be guilty, and certainly to torture those who legitimately have no information to give. What is an interested question to explore is whether we would find that same treatment acceptable if the suspect was completely guilty. Then we’d have to ask ourselves, well, here’s the program, and even if it works, is it something we can live with as civilized people with a conscience?
And so we, finally, have Big Bad Wolves, a film that asks all the easy questions, only to turn the knife in its final moments by revealing that the victim of so much torture and harassment is, in fact, guilty of exactly what he’s accused of. The circumstances are very different than those of Rendition – the torturer is a grieving father, his target a suspected child rapist and killer. But where so many lesser films would tip their hand one way or the other, either in the way Rendition went or by telling us up front that the guy is guilty and showing just how far the father has fallen, how little of his humanity has remained, in his pursuit of revenge. We’re left instead to see many different facets of these people – how genuinely scared and unbelieving the rapist is, how truly deranged and unbalanced the father is. We’re left to sympathize with those we might not otherwise, hope for the defeat of others, and are left instead with the truly horrifying realization that none of these people are good, that they’re all guilty, and that one violent action does not excuse any other. Though it wallows in immorality, I couldn’t imagine a more moral portrait.