Russia has long been pilloried in Hollywood as a hostile nation, a country interested in world domination, destroyer of Western values. It is the boogeyman hiding in the closet in Cold War-era films, a nefarious brainwasher that turns innocent, freedom-loving citizens Red. In other films, such as John Milius’ jingoistic 1984 Brat Packer Red Dawn, Russia simply flat-out invades smalltown USA. In the low-budget actioner The Unthinkable, Russia stretches out to attack Sweden. Putin apparently hates Scandinavia, too.

But why? That is a question that burns through this film, something that is never truly answered. But before all the action, The Unthinkable begins as a character study of a family in crisis. It’s 2005 and Alex (Christoffer Nordenrot) is going through the typical travails of a sensitive, teenage boy. He has feelings for his friend, Anna (Lisa Henni), but he is unable to express his desire. Part of Alex’s problem is his fractious homelife. His father, Björn (Jesper Barkselius), is an ex-soldier and borderline conspiracy theorist. Angry that no one is heeding his warnings about Russia and about his own financial woes, Björn takes out his frustrations on his wife and on Alex. Things finally come to a head on Christmas when Alex’s mother splits and Anna must relocate to Stockholm with her mother. In a rage, Alex turns on his abusive father and runs away.

Flash forward 12 years and Alex is a successful musician, playing music similar to Nils Frahm to full auditoriums. He lives in Stockholm, but is alone and profoundly unhappy, at odds with a business partner. As the story picks up, the city is being rocked by unexplained terrorist attacks. His mother perishes in one attack and Alex heads back to his village for the funeral where his father still lives. It is Midsummer and he does not alert Björn that the mother has died. Apparently, hard feelings still exist. While at the village, Alex rekindles his friendship with Anna, who has moved back. But then the attacks amplify and everything goes to hell.

Unfortunately, The Unthinkable begins to fall apart at this point. It is unclear what the Russians want and some of the weapons they deploy against the Swedes make no sense. At one point, a biological or chemical agent hidden in the rain makes birds drop dead out of the sky. As the film wears on, the rain remains a threat but it doesn’t seem to affect birds. There are some good action sequences, especially considering the budget, involving car crashes, but unanswered questions linger throughout.

It is inevitable that Alex and Björn will meet again during this time of strife. Though Björn is unlikable, the filmmakers take pains to make his anguish and anger somewhat nuanced. Alex, on the other hand, is pretty difficult to get behind. As an adult he is petulant, sullen and self-absorbed. There is no room for forgiveness in his heart and more than once, he appears willing to leave his father for dead.

The Unthinkable shows a lot of promise, especially for people looking for a character-driven action movie. The initial relationship between Alex and Björn is well-drawn but the shift from drama to action scuttles what begins as an interesting movie. By the time The Unthinkable draws to its overwrought and melodramatic ending, it’s hard to really care. And once again, Putin gets the last laugh.

Summary
Shows a lot of promise, but by the time the film draws to its overwrought and melodramatic ending, it’s hard to really care.
50 %
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