In an eloquently written column by director Kathryn Bigelow she directly addresses the many criticisms against Zero Dark Thirty:
“Experts disagree sharply on the facts and particulars of the intelligence hunt, and doubtlessly that debate will continue. As for what I personally believe, which has been the subject of inquiries, accusations and speculation, I think Osama bin Laden was found due to ingenious detective work. Torture was, however, as we all know, employed in the early years of the hunt. That doesn’t mean it was the key to finding Bin Laden. It means it is a part of the story we couldn’t ignore. War, obviously, isn’t pretty, and we were not interested in portraying this military action as free of moral consequences.”
“In that vein, we should never discount and never forget the thousands of innocent lives lost on 9/11and subsequent terrorist attacks. We should never forget the brave work of those professionals in the military and intelligence communities who paid the ultimate price in the effort to combat a grave threat to this nation’s safety and security.
Bin Laden wasn’t defeated by superheroes zooming down from the sky; he was defeated by ordinary Americans who fought bravely even as they sometimes crossed moral lines, who labored greatly and intently, who gave all of themselves in both victory and defeat, in life and in death, for the defense of this nation.”
Everything Bigelow says in this piece is dead on except for one tiny little thing. The film not only shows that torturing a detainee led to the name of Bin Laden’s courier but it also shows the White House being skeptical of that information because it was “obtained from a detainee under duress.” That information proves true, ergo…
That the film tells one side of the story does not make it a bad film. It doesn’t mean it endorses torture. All it means that Americans should be aware that it is an ongoing debate as to whether the info gathered on the name of Bin Laden’s courier was obtained through enhanced interrogation techniques. Yes, artistic expression matters. Yes, we should all be allowed to love the film regardless. To think it endorses torture is misguided. But it’s also important to remember that it is “just a movie.” The truth is in the history and that history has yet to be uncovered. It is not unlike the “weapons of mass destruction” reason for getting into the war. We all agree that the information on that is in dispute. Most filmmakers tell the story as though those weapons never existed (none were ever found) but it is still in dispute.