Friday, July 13, 2007


I find it pretty annoying that torture has become so popular today - mainly, though not exclusively, among Republicans. You can understand where this comes from, though. Shows like "24" do a great job portraying torture. I mean, torture is such a perfect device for film and television. It's both a physical and a psychological battle. One side has an overwhelming physical advantage, but the psychological advantage can go either way.

Now, the problem with "24" is that torture, when performed by Jack Bauer, almost invariably works. Jack figures out the weakness and exploits it, and the detainee provides the information. As we now know, however, torture is terribly ineffective. It's far more likely to produce inaccurate intelligence than truth - people will confess to anything to stop the pain.

This is one of the reasons I love the movie "True Romance." It contains one of the few on-screen torture scenes in which torture actually doesn't work. In the following scene, Christopher Walken is interrogating Dennis Hopper. Beyond the delight of watching these two actors work together, you see a great mind game going on. Hopper determines about halfway through the scene that there's no way he can win. He can't lie, and he's not going to give up his son. What's more, he figures he's going to die anyway. So he decides to just insult Walken. And Hopper gets the psychological victory.


lidzville said...

Isn't Walken also in the famous russian roulette scene in The Deer Hunter? That's another one where brutality fails. And of course, Han Solo never gave up the goods.

Enik said...

Han Solo was never asked any questions! Vader was just torturing him to make Luke do something stupid, and it worked. So maybe there's a lesson there: torture is ineffective on the prisoner, but it can goad the prisoner's allies into unwise actions.

lidzville said...

Hmm, that's true. So Vader knew his son was a sentimentalist. Kaiser Soze would have totally stayed on Dagobah.

Enik said...

I wonder how much Vader knew. For all we know, he was just trying to get Luke to show up so he could train Luke in the dark side. But he really got Luke at a sensitive time - when he was beginning his training but not yet able to easily distinguish between the light and dark sides. Luke was also open to new ideas but not yet strong enough to defeat Vader. Very shrewd timing on Vader's part.