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Torture: appearances in recent movies?

ChopperDaveChopperDave Registered User regular
edited April 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
For the final in my class called "Punishment, Politics, and Culture," I've decided to do a paper on how torture appears in U.S. popular culture and informs our approaches to punishment. In other words, I want to look at a few films and see how they play into American cultural understandings of torture (i.e. our intuition of how violent or painful an act must be before it becomes torture, who uses torture and to what ends, how and when torture is or should be used, if it can get reliable information, etc.)

I'm not really interested in so-called "torture-porn" films, like Hostel or Saw; torture-as-exploitation isn't really the end goal here. I'm more interested in films that try to depict torture "realistically"—the sorts of situations in which one might find torture used in the "real world."

Two limiting factors:
1) I'm ONLY looking at film. TV shows like 24 would be interesting, but the research paper is too short to be crossing formats.
2) I want to look at movies made in the last decade, preferably during the Bush presidency. So films like Reservoir Dogs are out.

So far all I can think of is Casino Royale and Syriana. Are there any other (recent) pop-culture movies where torture scenes appear? I'm most interested in scenes where torture is used an an interrogation device (even if it's something as simple as, say, a cop breaking a dude's fingers to pry information out of him).

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  • EskimoDaveEskimoDave Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Torture plays a part in 'Body of Lies'.

    EskimoDave on
  • DjinnDjinn Registered User
    edited April 2009
    Watchmen springs to mind. Rorschach hurts a lot of people to make them talk.

    Ironman has a scene in which Afghani terrorists use waterboarding. Its interesting because waterboarding is on us really, but in this movie its projected onto the enemy.

    Djinn on
  • Iceman.USAFIceman.USAF Major East CoastRegistered User regular
    edited April 2009
    There was a Mel Gibson movie a while back...Payday? Paycheck? Something like that. Anyway, they smashed some toes with a hammer...that stuck with me for whatever reason. It'd be before Bush I believe but it could be interesting. Sorry I'm not more help.

    Iceman.USAF on


  • OrganichuOrganichu jacobkosh Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    For the final in my class called "Punishment, Politics, and Culture," I've decided to do a paper on how torture appears in U.S. popular culture and informs our approaches to punishment. In other words, I want to look at a few films and see how they play into American cultural understandings of torture (i.e. our intuition of how violent or painful an act must be before it becomes torture, who uses torture and to what ends, how and when torture is or should be used, if it can get reliable information, etc.)

    I'm not really interested in so-called "torture-porn" films, like Hostel or Saw; torture-as-exploitation isn't really the end goal here. I'm more interested in films that try to depict torture "realistically"—the sorts of situations in which one might find torture used in the "real world."

    Two limiting factors:
    1) I'm ONLY looking at film. TV shows like 24 would be interesting, but the research paper is too short to be crossing formats.
    2) I want to look at movies made in the last decade, preferably during the Bush presidency. So films like Reservoir Dogs are out.

    So far all I can think of is Casino Royale and Syriana. Are there any other (recent) pop-culture movies where torture scenes appear? I'm most interested in scenes where torture is used an an interrogation device (even if it's something as simple as, say, a cop breaking a dude's fingers to pry information out of him).

    There's an excellent 2007 film, Rendition, that touches on these subjects. It's about an Egyptian American who is taken without notice to his family and tortured over a period of time. His wife exhausts all her resources to discover his whereabouts, and Jake Gylenhaal plays an excellent CIA analyst who is supposed to be the 'heart' or 'objectivity' in a world fraught with suspicion and guilt until proof of innocence. It even showcases a really excellent quote that's been a favorite of mine for years, from Merchant of Venice:

    I fear you speak upon the rack
    Where men enforced do speak anything


    Even if you don't choose to include the film in your project, I think it'd be great for you to check out if you're at all interested in the subject matter.

    Organichu on
  • DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    There is torture to obtain information in the movie Taken. (Which was also the movie that made me go, "Remember when the American good guy showed that he was the good guy by not killing the villain in the end?")

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  • Iceman.USAFIceman.USAF Major East CoastRegistered User regular
    edited April 2009
    What about Batman Begins/The Dark Knight? There's at least one or two scenes in there too.

    I really wish you were doing TV too! haha

    Iceman.USAF on


  • JansonJanson Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    I will second Rendition; it was the first film that sprung to mind.

    Janson on
  • NappuccinoNappuccino Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Does Audition count? It kind of gets lumped into the "torture porn" trend but has much more depth than that. Namely, that most people didn't even realize it was supposed to be a horror movie until the moment. If you've seen it you know the one I mean. It could be a nice commentary on how the nicest people are really anything but. It could be nicely applied to say, or government.

    Also... Hard Candy had some torture of sorts.

    Fight Club had a few instances that could be construed as torture, but that movie might be just a bit too old.

    The Proposition has a scene which starts off as punishment (which may or may not be deserved) but turns into essentially torture while the towns people watch in horror.

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  • SentrySentry Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Three Kings has a scene with Mark Wahlberg being tortured. Not sure if it's what you are looking for, but it was interesting.

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  • .kbf?.kbf? Registered User
    edited April 2009
    Slumdog Millionaire had a brief torture scene.

    .kbf? on
  • TrentusTrentus Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Do the beat down scenes in 21 count?

    Basically, if you haven't seen it (spoilered in case I give away too much):
    Kid joins a group who have a system to improve their chances of coming out on top in a game of blackjack. They trip to vegas (i think) every so often to cash up, casino begins to notice, they send some thugs, they catch the kid, give him a bit of a smack and say "That's our money! Bad math nerd! Don't do that anymore!". Obviously there's more to it than this, but you get the idea.

    Trentus on
  • rfaliasrfalias Registered User
    edited April 2009
    Darkewolfe wrote: »
    There is torture to obtain information in the movie Taken. (Which was also the movie that made me go, "Remember when the American good guy showed that he was the good guy by not killing the villain in the end?")

    Not to mention taken is awesome anyways.

    rfalias on
  • BurnageBurnage Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Nappuccino wrote: »
    Also... Hard Candy had some torture of sorts.

    Jesus, that film's one of the "best" portrayals of mental torture that I've ever seen. From how the OP describes it, Hard Candy would fit in well with the paper's themes.

    Burnage on
  • GrisloGrislo Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Taken isn't a good movie, but I think it would be interesting for your paper. If you have access to foreign movie magazines, it might be very interesting for you to check out reviews of the movies you end up picking, especially of flicks like Taken, with its 'American abroad' angle.

    I think Empire went for a torture angle in their review.

    EDIT: Hard Candy is an excellent idea.

    Also, Empire review of Taken, which is a bit excessive, but gives an interesting viewpoint whether you agree or not:

    http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?FID=135695

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  • SunstrandSunstrand Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    The Russel Crowe and Leonardo Dicaprio film, Body of Lies, has a some stuff about torture and it's effectiveness, it's has a bit more action than Rendition and some of the torture is more graphic.

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  • TossrockTossrock too weird to live too rare to dieRegistered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Syriana has George Clooney getting his fingernails ripped off

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  • HedgethornHedgethorn Associate Professor of Historical Hobby Horses In the Lions' DenRegistered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Was there torture in Munich? I seem to remember that there was, but I haven't seen the movie for a couple of years.

    Hedgethorn on
  • TexiKenTexiKen y-you remember that one scene in Goodfellas when Ray Liotta says to Joe Pesci “You’re a funny guy” and Joe Pesci goes “I’m funny? How am I funny?” And Ray Liotta goes “I mean you’re just funny” and-Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    There wasn't any torture in Munich that I remember.

    Team America had torture. Oh, I see....

    It should be mentioned that just because someone makes a film including torture it doesn't mean people saw the movie, which limits people's exposure. No one saw Rendition in comparison to other movies released at the time, so whether it has influenced society's opinions on torture might be rather small. A film can only have a significant impact on changing people's perceptions if enough actually see the film (this isn't a slam on the movies themselves)

    Of the movies mentioned, the only big ones would be Casino Royale, the new Batman movies, and Iron Man. And of those, Casino Royale is the one that really showed the most.

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  • AnteCantelopeAnteCantelope Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    The Siege is maybe not too old. I thought that it dealt with torture fairly interestingly, and with Bruce WIllis and Denzel Washington in it, I'm pretty sure that a few people saw that movie.

    AnteCantelope on
  • ChopperDaveChopperDave Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    TexiKen wrote: »
    It should be mentioned that just because someone makes a film including torture it doesn't mean people saw the movie, which limits people's exposure. No one saw Rendition in comparison to other movies released at the time, so whether it has influenced society's opinions on torture might be rather small. A film can only have a significant impact on changing people's perceptions if enough actually see the film (this isn't a slam on the movies themselves)

    Of the movies mentioned, the only big ones would be Casino Royale, the new Batman movies, and Iron Man. And of those, Casino Royale is the one that really showed the most.

    It doesn't really matter how successful the film was. There's really no way of measuring how a single movie influences society's opinions, short of maybe conducting a nationwide poll (which I don't have the time or resources to do). What I'm actually trying to do is the opposite: examine how American society influences the way torture is approached in film, and see whether these films serve to undermine or strengthen commonly-held American cultural conceptions of torture (i.e. that it is used by and against people who are "outside the law," that it can effectively be used as an interrogation device, that it is always extraordinarily physically painful, etc).

    I think any movie is fine, as long as it was produced in the United States and given wide release. Thanks for all the help so far, guys, these are some good suggestions.

    ChopperDave on
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  • Sir CarcassSir Carcass I have been shown the end of my world Round Rock, TXRegistered User regular
    edited April 2009
  • DragonPupDragonPup Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    It is not recent by any measure, but if you have not seen A Clockwork Orange I would recommend it.

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  • EskimoDaveEskimoDave Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
  • KalTorakKalTorak One way or another, they all end up in the Undercity.Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    "The Empire Strikes Back" has some mechanical glowy-pointy stuff torture.

    KalTorak on
  • Stevie2SxcStevie2Sxc __BANNED USERS
    edited April 2009
    Could the Ludivago (?) Treatment scene in Clockwork Orange be seen as, like, psychological torture?

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  • RookRook Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    KalTorak wrote: »
    "The Empire Strikes Back" has some mechanical glowy-pointy stuff torture.

    I'm pretty sure it's inferred in the first film that Princess Leia is tortured (that ball droid thing with the syringe).

    You'd be hard pressed to find an action film though that didn't have some form of enhanced interrogation though, just watched The Fast and the Furious, some guy gets motor oil forced over his face to give up some info.

    There's a funny torture scene in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang though.

    Rook on
  • necroSYSnecroSYS Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited April 2009
    I'd probably go with Rendition, Syriana, and the last 30 minutes of Bravo Two Zero.

    necroSYS on
    There's no point in you getting both of yourselves all worked up and ready to chart the undiscovered country, then having her flush crimson red, run to the bathroom, and spend twenty minutes straining and grunting and stressing out because you're all ready to deliver your package but there's a three inch thick Sunday paper clogging up the mail slot.
  • necroSYSnecroSYS Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited April 2009
    I don't know if there's a good example of 24-like torture in the movies though, torture where the audience is supposed to empathize with the torturer.....

    The ending of Hostel's the only thing that springs immediately to mind...or maybe 8mm. But neither of those have any sort of overarching sociopolitical meaning re: the torture.

    necroSYS on
    There's no point in you getting both of yourselves all worked up and ready to chart the undiscovered country, then having her flush crimson red, run to the bathroom, and spend twenty minutes straining and grunting and stressing out because you're all ready to deliver your package but there's a three inch thick Sunday paper clogging up the mail slot.
  • necroSYSnecroSYS Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited April 2009
    Plus, there's always Marathon Man.

    necroSYS on
    There's no point in you getting both of yourselves all worked up and ready to chart the undiscovered country, then having her flush crimson red, run to the bathroom, and spend twenty minutes straining and grunting and stressing out because you're all ready to deliver your package but there's a three inch thick Sunday paper clogging up the mail slot.
  • KalTorakKalTorak One way or another, they all end up in the Undercity.Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    D'oh, completely forgot. The Princess Bride.

    "So it's to be torture? I can withstand anything. ...You don't believe me?"
    "You survived the Fire Swamp; you must be very brave. But no one withstands The Machine."

    KalTorak on
  • ApexMirageApexMirage Registered User
    edited April 2009
    Die another day in 2002, has Bond tortured at the beginning of the movie.

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  • NappuccinoNappuccino Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Rook wrote: »
    KalTorak wrote: »
    "The Empire Strikes Back" has some mechanical glowy-pointy stuff torture.

    I'm pretty sure it's inferred in the first film that Princess Leia is tortured (that ball droid thing with the syringe).

    You'd be hard pressed to find an action film though that didn't have some form of enhanced interrogation though, just watched The Fast and the Furious, some guy gets motor oil forced over his face to give up some info.

    There's a funny torture scene in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang though.

    And in 2 fast 2 furious, the one guy gets a bucket with a rat trapped in it placed over his belly, the villain proceeds to use a blow torch on the bucket to make the rat try to escape by clawing into his belly.

    I don't know if that will help the paper though...

    Nappuccino on
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    Rorus Raz wrote: »
    There's also the possibility you just can't really grow a bear like other guys.

    Not even BEAR vaginas can defeat me!
    cakemikz wrote: »
    And then I rub actual cake on myself.
    Loomdun wrote: »
    thats why you have chest helmets
  • PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    There was a Mel Gibson movie a while back...Payday? Paycheck? Something like that. Anyway, they smashed some toes with a hammer...that stuck with me for whatever reason. It'd be before Bush I believe but it could be interesting. Sorry I'm not more help.

    What is Payback.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payback_(film)

    This little piggy stayed home ...

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  • limester816limester816 Registered User
    edited April 2009
    Saw?

    limester816 on
  • NappuccinoNappuccino Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Saw?

    read the op
    I'm not really interested in so-called "torture-porn" films, like Hostel or Saw; torture-as-exploitation isn't really the end goal here.

    Nappuccino on
    Like to write? Want to get e-published? Give us a look-see at http://wednesdaynightwrites.com/
    Rorus Raz wrote: »
    There's also the possibility you just can't really grow a bear like other guys.

    Not even BEAR vaginas can defeat me!
    cakemikz wrote: »
    And then I rub actual cake on myself.
    Loomdun wrote: »
    thats why you have chest helmets
  • KalTorakKalTorak One way or another, they all end up in the Undercity.Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Nappuccino wrote: »
    Rook wrote: »
    KalTorak wrote: »
    "The Empire Strikes Back" has some mechanical glowy-pointy stuff torture.

    I'm pretty sure it's inferred in the first film that Princess Leia is tortured (that ball droid thing with the syringe).

    You'd be hard pressed to find an action film though that didn't have some form of enhanced interrogation though, just watched The Fast and the Furious, some guy gets motor oil forced over his face to give up some info.

    There's a funny torture scene in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang though.

    And in 2 fast 2 furious, the one guy gets a bucket with a rat trapped in it placed over his belly, the villain proceeds to use a blow torch on the bucket to make the rat try to escape by clawing into his belly.

    I don't know if that will help the paper though...

    I remember reading about that in an R.A. Salvatore book.

    KalTorak on
  • NappuccinoNappuccino Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Its very possible, 2f2f didn't really scream originality...

    Nappuccino on
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    Rorus Raz wrote: »
    There's also the possibility you just can't really grow a bear like other guys.

    Not even BEAR vaginas can defeat me!
    cakemikz wrote: »
    And then I rub actual cake on myself.
    Loomdun wrote: »
    thats why you have chest helmets
  • RocketSauceRocketSauce Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Mission Impossible 3 had some interrogation/torture scenes.

    RocketSauce on
  • TzyrTzyr Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Movies within the past 10 years with torture?

    Spy Game - Brad pitts character gets caught in a Chinese prison and is tortured to find out who he is with.

    Sin City - Marv is tortured when tied up, only to find out he could have got out at any time. There are a couple other torture scenes in this movie as well with other characters.

    Taken (which was already mentioned) - Has several torture scenes where Liam's character is trying to find out more where his daughter is.

    The new Rambo count? The torture here was more off screen, but the result was on screen.

    Shooter - Again, kind of a stretch. the torture here was forcing the FBI agent to make it look like he killed himself.


    The Passion of the Christ - This movie kind of speaks for itself.

    Finally, what about self torture?

    The DaVinci Code - Silas, inflicks pain on himself so he can do pain to others (sort of ways of excusing what he does).

    Tzyr on
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  • NappuccinoNappuccino Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Tzyr wrote: »



    Finally, what about self torture?

    The DaVinci Code - Silas, inflicks pain on himself so he can do pain to others (sort of ways of excusing what he does).


    He was really the only good thing about that movie as well. That might add a reason to include him in the paper; the ability for the psychological problems of a self torturer to be disturbing yet relate able.

    Nappuccino on
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    Rorus Raz wrote: »
    There's also the possibility you just can't really grow a bear like other guys.

    Not even BEAR vaginas can defeat me!
    cakemikz wrote: »
    And then I rub actual cake on myself.
    Loomdun wrote: »
    thats why you have chest helmets
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