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The Torture in Zero Dark Thirty – Can We Handle the Truth?

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Possible spoilers but …I mean, come on. By now?

The truth of the film #1: Zero Dark Thirty is a film about a CIA op whose job it is to find and kill Osama Bin Laden. To do that, she uses every available resource. Research, clues, surveillance, observation and torture. Torture is part of their program in the early part of the film. They torture several suspects. The first guy gives no information. They know that there isn’t any way they can break him. They eventually figure out he doesn’t know anything but they might be able to trick him into giving information.

The second time they waterboard a guy, it’s at the hands of Maya (Jessica Chastain) who repeats what the main interrogator (Jason Clarke) says, essentially, I’m going to make your life miserable if you don’t talk. He doesn’t talk, smack, he gets hit. He doesn’t talk again, smack, he gets hit. Then he gets waterboarded. The next thing that happens is Maya is in the bathroom taking off her wig, spent. After that, there are no more scenes of torture.

The truth of the film #2: After they’ve gone through all of that, and used those interrogation techniques, which include torture, they then hear a speech from President Obama who says “we will no longer torture.” They all look up at the TV dumbfounded. You can read into that scene anything you want — as in, you can read their reactions as “are you kidding me?” Or you can read their reactions as “first you tell us to torture then you tell us we can’t?” Either way, by now, we get that the US is playing games.   To my mind, it looks like politics vs. reality.   When they fail to turn up any real leads they get yelled at. “Do your fucking jobs, bring me people to kill.” So what are they supposed to do now?  They are getting pressured from both sides — don’t torture, says the President; bring me people to kill, says the CIA.

The truth of the film #3: Maya is a badass. It’s somewhat shocking when you watch a film where the woman has the biggest pair of balls. But she does. She is the one who doesn’t flinch.  After they’re done torturing one guy, Chastain says “you want to take another run at him?” And Clarke says he can’t do it anymore. He can’t look at any naked men anymore.

The truth about the film #4: There is no humanity or compassion for anyone on the other side. Maya says “a lot of my friends were killed doing this. I believe I was spared to finish the job.” That is kind of like saying, “God is on our side.”  In The Hurt Locker there were many scenes that portrayed the humanity of the Iraqis.  We were left with a feeling of helplessness.  Had we never found Bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty’s original script might have followed that same line.  But this isn’t a story about a failure; it’s a story about success.

At a crucial point, though, the film changes direction. Maya goes after her significant lead and is blocked at every turn by men above her.  She is like a bulldog who goes after her target in any way that works. Torture didn’t really work so well — so now, it becomes a bit of a paper trail and is dependent totally on Maya’s smarts and willingness to take on those patriarchs who doubt her.   This is the best part of the film and it’s where Jessica Chastain really shows that she’s probably given the best performance of the year.

It’s as frustrating to read the denials by people who loved Zero Dark Thirty, pretending the film doesn’t depict scenes of torture as part of the CIA program to interrogate, as it is to read the equally hysterical opinions on the other side,  claiming the film is “pro-torture.” In All the Presidents Men, Dustin Hoffman lies to a source in order to get information. There isn’t anything Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford will not do to get information, to hunt down their story, to bring the truth to America.  In Zero Dark Thirty, Maya is the same.

Those who are anti-torture and pro Zero Dark Thirty want so badly for it not to be a film that depicts characters who use torture because they think it works. They don’t want there to be any hint that torture might have worked. They would prefer the film to be anti-torture the way The Hurt Locker was anti-war.

The only thing that remains to be seen is this: did Mark Boal invent the scenes torture because he assumed that’s what they did? Or were Boal and Bigelow privy to information that confirmed the CIA tortured suspects on the hunt for Bin Laden?  I’m going to take a wild guess that it’s the latter. But I’d be curious to hear what really happened.

None of this changes what a great film Zero Dark Thirty is. If anything, it allows us the chance to ask ourselves whether it was worth it or not to have tortured. We ask ourselves whether it was worth it or not to kill Osama Bin Laden. The film never answers this question for us.  Zero Dark Thirty allows us, and requires us, to reconcile with our own conscience just as Maya reconciled with hers.  And that is perhaps the film’s greatest strength.

84 Comments on this Post

  1. And this is from a filmmaker, and makes quite interesting points, if you read it with an open mind of course:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alex-gibney/zero-dark-thirty-torture_b_2345589.html

  2. Good article, Sasha.

    Maybe I’m a simpleton, but after 9/11, the oath was that “we’ll get who did this.” We all know torture was used for interrogation to gather information. It’s use was fiercely defended, even championed, by the previous administration.

    Eventually, the pieces led – maybe not directly, but to somebody who knew somebody..ad infinitum – to Bin Laden. Would they have found him without it? Yes. But the fact is, it was used.

    If the torture was not used for that purpose, what the hell was it being used for? Maybe we should ask the detainees what kinds of questions they were being asked (never gonna happen).

    The real problem here is the fact that torture is shown as it happened in reality, without making any judgement one way or the other, and the audience is not queued as to what they should think or how they should feel about it. Apparently, there are some pretty important folks in Washington that don’t like the idea of people judging for themselves.

    To answer your question – no, they can’t handle the truth, never could and never will.

  3. Sasha, I love reading your site (have been since 2004) and hearing your insight on these films, so please do not take this as a personal attack, because you are not the first Oscar blogger to do this and won’t be the last.

    First of all, thank you for mentioning that there are possible spoilers in the article. But it baffles me each and every time when an Oscar blogger says, “come on, by now?” That almost comes off as saying, “if you haven’t seen the movie by now, you must be on a different planet.” Please do not forget that it’s only playing in 5 theaters in LA and NYC and most of your readers won’t get to see the film until it opens wide on Jan 11th. Heck, even for industry readers, they just got their screeners a couple of days ago. The truth is, the majority of your readership has not seen the movie yet, so why spoil the element of surprise for them? Isn’t there a way to talk about the movie without giving a plot summary of the first hour of the film?

    It’s not that this is a problem specifically with your website, it’s just that I’ve had a lot of film moments spoiled for me this year, including third act reveals in Life of Pi, The Sessions and The Dark Knight Rises. It’s important to note, however, that none of those spoilers came from your website.

  4. Americans obviously can’t handle the truth. They don’t recognise the The Hague tribunal (probably most doesn’t even know what is that, which is a world tribunal created to fight crimes against humanity) and don’t acknowledge the real aspects about the supposed demise of Osama Bin Laden, which was wrong on all counts, moral, politichal, strategichal, and which, as depicted on the official version is simply unbelievable. I know it is taboo (is intended to, so you don’t ask the right questions openly, in fear of instant and automatically labeled as “conspiranoid”… but truth is, probably Ben Laden died back in Feb. 2002 – as iranian secret services reported back then – as he was in serious condition due to his kidney disease, even when 9-11 took place. What a nice scapegoat is, a terminal pacient on the run, who will die exactly when he’s not required anymore. And I find so amusing americans finding out about his country torturing, when they just have to do some research on “School of America” on wikipedia or watch Michael Winterbottom’s excellent and compulsory doc “The Shock Doctrine”.

    World ain’t gonna change till americans wake up. The killing of Ben Laden – as told – just shows off how far we are from a change in our society, for the better. And how helpless.

  5. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    I did put a spoiler alert in there but it seems to me that if you’re worried about spoilers over the subject of torture you might have your priorities in disorder. The issues in discussion here do spoil some of the film – which is why I put it in there. But if you’re at all concerned about the topic at hand the plot details won’t bother you. You all know we got and killed Bin Laden.

  6. Can’t we all just get over it?

    Alex Gibney’s argument doesn’t hold up for me. He criticises the film for being realistic, and for thus convincing people that what it is presenting is truth. 1 – it might actually be truth. 2 – even if it is not truth, isn’t it the intention of most filmmakers to make their films as realistic as possible? 3 – why can’t we just trust people to make up their own minds about these things? If you believe the film, fine. If not, also fine. It’s not a documentary.

  7. I wouldn’t have even put the spoiler alert in. You’ve only revealed some specifics about events in the earlier parts of the film, from what I understand. Trailers do the same. Plot synopses do the same. A spoiler alert would be required if you gave away important details about the ending, or a major plot twist, and you don’t.

    The truth is, the majority of your readership has not seen the movie yet, so why spoil the element of surprise for them?

    That’s why the spoiler alert is there. The ‘element os surprise’ won’t be spoiled if you don’t want it to be.

    Isn’t there a way to talk about the movie without giving a plot summary of the first hour of the film?

    Yes, and it has been done elsewhere. This is just one article that does discuss some plot specifics. Avoiding one article won’t kill you.

  8. Here’s the thing. Torture IS immoral yet it DOES work. No, those officials that say it doesn’t are lying out of their asses. Every single intelligence agency has resorted to torture here and there and they have GOTTEN the answers they seek.

    I agree with Sasha says. The film isn’t devoid of torture and it is not even about being pro or against torture. It simply shows it WORKS and I firmly believe that (Not how Bin Laden was captured but how torture is effective). The film is just telling the truth it believes in. Not trying to say torture doesn’t work or there weren’t any tortures involved (Both would have been incredible lies).

  9. Yashar, yes torture works so well, that people ends saying ANYTHING so it finishes. How many people has been executed thanks to torture, for being, for example, witches…

    Brilliant, Yashar, brilliant.

  10. The controversy around this film is not about showing torture, which the CIA undeniably did, but whether torture led to effective results. All the Congressional investigations reached the same conclusion: torture doesn’t provide good information, and it certainly didn’t in the search for Bin Laden. This film seems to be going against the historical record though and depicts torture as leading to the identity of Osama’s courier which was integral to finding the mastermind of 9/11. The danger then is that this film will mislead viewers into thinking torture is effective and has a use in intelligence gathering, when history shows otherwise.

    I don’t think Sasha related what the controversy was exactly, so for another point of view, here are the thoughts of filmmaker Alex Gibney:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alex-gibney/zero-dark-thirty-torture_b_2345589.html

  11. Paddy and Sasha,

    I did see the film yesterday, and I feel privileged to have done so, so just to clarify, nothing is being spoiled for me personally. I can’t speak the same for the rest of your readership.

    The trailers and EPK for Zero Dark Thirty give away no plot details. The filmmakers were very careful to keep plot details under wraps. So a recap of the first hour of the film is hardly a “possible spoiler”.

    And coming from a filmmaker’s point of view, I find it disrespectful when plot details are being spoiled, regardless of the subject matter, regardless of where they occur in the film.

    Frankly, what has to be said about the torture scenes has already been said on this website several times, and now you’re just beating a dead horse. There is nothing illuminating in this article that hasn’t been discussed ad nauseum, other than giving away plot details. Bravo!

  12. What do you mean ” come on, by now?” It’s not out yet in many places.
    This is the part of some the reviews I don’t like. Us “regular folk” don’t see the films before you.

  13. @Yashar: torture works in that tortured people will say anything to make it stop. They will admit to being aliens from Mars. You can’t get reliable information from them. Like someone else said single women back in the day living alone or doing “socially unacceptable” things would be marked as witches, tortured into making false confections then burned alive.

    The CIA sounds like they aren’t refuting that some prisoners were tortured just that useful information came from those sessions. Unless they had access to classified information saying so Boal/Bigelow can’t be sure.

  14. Jesus Alonso
    You missed my point. I’m not supporting torture. It just works for the torturer because with the right method, they can almost always get what they want. Sure, it’s true that people will say ANYTHING to end it but the whole process has proven more than useful for many agencies and government. That does NOT make it RIGHT.

    This is my whole point: People should NOT say it is amoral and doesn’t work OR it is moral because it works. A lot people are saying that torture doesn’t work. They say ZDT is lying because torture didn’t work.

  15. Just saw in on Wed, I tried to go in with an open mind, but to be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed by it. I have no problem with the waterboarding scenes, but whether they really took place or not, we will never find out. I believe Bush/Cheney administration approved that waterboarding, but interestingly enough, I didn’t see more waterboarding scenes after 2008 in the film. Anyway, my main problem comes from “Maya”. This film claims it is based on the first hand accounts of actual events, but maybe Boal and Bigelow should have been clearer about the disclaimer? I am not a sexist, but I am really skeptical of this whole “the girl that got Laden” premise. For your hardcore Bigelow/Boal lovers, maybe you can tell me if this “Maya” exists in real life, if we don’t know, then, maybe Sasha and the fans of this film should not have claimed this film as the one that told the truth. It is more of a “Hollywood” rendition of what happened. I believe it is a group effort that led to the killing of Bin Laden. This film blatantly suggests Maya is the one who got Laden. It just feels hokey, pretentious and very cliched. This film has no heart, no humanity, it may have a bit emotional struggle of Maya, and that’s about it. I am not so sure this film will take the best picture anymore because this film doesn’t make you feel anything. It is just film with a cold heart. I guess the whole film is a big “anti war”, and anti conflict” statement with a cliched strong female character, but if “Maya” in fact exists in real life, I would not have had this kind of criticism, so anyone can tell me if Maya exists in real life, and please, I am not anti Bigelow,(God forbid if i am). I am just not very impressed with this film. I will go see it again, and maybe I will like it better and find something new, but for now, I prefer Argo.

  16. Jerry,
    This is not about horrible practices of old but the modern (yet still horrible) ones that actually DO work. They are based on mental profiles, studies and a whole other set of techniques. Agents that initiate these are not some random cruel people. They are educated, trained and prepared to extract exactly what they want. Plus most of tortures are just stopped by the first, 2nd or 3rd confession. They usually go on until death or insanity. Again, this is NOT right but it does work for the torturers. That is the point. Working OR not working is a separate discussion to being moral OR immoral issue.

  17. I guess the issue here is counter-terrorist forces in a liberal democracy threatening the civil liberties of it’s citizens. Foreigners on foreign soil may be a different story.

    The fact is counter-terrorist forces must balance the securities of minimising terrorist threats to its citizens, as well as ensuring the civil freedoms of its citizens. If a person is detained and proof of an immenent event with massive loss of life may be about to occur, in those situations practically anything goes. But it would be harder to justify torture for the purpose of just finding Bin Laden.

    It’s a delicate balance for a democracy. On one hand, you have the soviets who crushed the freedoms of its citizens to all but eliminate dissidence, and on the other hand you have a Lebanon who too easily succumbed to terrorist threats.

    To continue public support for counter-terrorism, it needs to conduct itself within the parameters of the law. Personally, I am a pacifist, so I would never condone torture of any kind, but situations of immiment loss of life may result in a need for aggresive action.

    This has no bearing on the film though. If torture is held up as the hero of the story, then I would hate the film. But if torture is just shown as a means to an end, in a film, it’s just a film, so i’ll rate the film on it’s own merits.

  18. I haven’t seen the film yet and barely skimmed through posts about this subject, but I am surprised this debate is still going on. I thought when first arguments came out about it was just part of the whisper campaign or something but the fact that is still going on a couple of weeks later? The negativity and controversy does not make me as confident about Oscar chances as before.

  19. Spoilers, because this film is still only in FIVE THEATERS right now. FIVE. It’s not going to be released to the rest of the country *in this calendar year*. So technically, this should be a 2013 Oscar candidate, much like Albert Nobbs should have been.

  20. Why should it be a candidate for next year, Paul? It fulfills the Academy’s requirements, over which you have no say (I think). It has also officially been released in the US in 2012. Is that not enough of an American release? After all, there’ll likely be some theatres it never reaches – would you ask that it be held from contention until it had saturated the market entirely?

    Fucking hell, you’re still going on about Albert Nobbs. The rest of the world has forgotten about Albert Nobbs and you still hold that grudge.

  21. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    For your hardcore Bigelow/Boal lovers, maybe you can tell me if this “Maya” exists in real life, if we don’t know, then, maybe Sasha and the fans of this film should not have claimed this film as the one that told the truth.

    You don’t need to be a hardcore Bigelow/Boal lover to know Maya exists. You only need enough curiosity to watch any one of dozens of news segments about her, dozens of firsthand accounts from government insiders and journalists describing her personality and determination.

    To know that Maya is a real person, try turning on the TV sometime and watch the news. On MSNBC today alone I saw two different stories about her on two different programs.

    There’s another way to find out if Maya exists. Top secret tool for gathering intelligence called Google.

  22. Apparently, CIA is NOT too happy with this movie either…And it comes from the acting Director…not just some gossip..

    http://news.yahoo.com/cia-not-too-happy-zero-dark-thirty-152018214.html

  23. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman would never torture anyone to get information. Sorry, you can’t say that “it’s the same”. It isn’t. Journalists don’t break human rights. Writing is not the same as killing. If you think that it’s the same, you lack ethics. Not everything can be allowed to “bring the truth to America”.

  24. Bob Burns

    priceless PR.

  25. “did Mark Boal invent the scenes torture because he assumed that’s what they did? Or were Boal and Bigelow privy to information that confirmed the CIA tortured suspects on the hunt for Bin Laden? I’m going to take a wild guess that it’s the latter.”

    I’m guessing it’s the former. Guessing coz I haven’t seen it yet, just read about the protestations from Democratic and Republican senators and a CIA agent. Hope it’s screening in Vegas this Winter break.

  26. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman would never torture anyone to get information.

    Say that to the dozens of octogenarians Dustin Hoffman personally waterboarded as research for Quartet.

  27. I’m guessing it’s the former. Guessing coz I haven’t seen it yet, just read about the protestations from Democratic and Republican senators and a CIA agent.

    Of course they’d protest.

    Mum: “Did you eat the last cookie?”
    Child: “No.”

    The child ate the fucking cookie. Duh.

  28. Are those lines from a movie Paddy? Nice script, gotta see it.

  29. Yes, they’re lines from a movie that I’m writing. Can’t give any detailed information out atm – top secret and that, getting help from the CIA and Mark Boal, no less. The kid gets waterboarded soon after the above scene, though, that I can say. Based on fact.

  30. I’ve seen thousands of movies in my lifetime, enough to know that scriptwriters and directors are cunning truth-twisters, but that doesn’t bother me as long as the film is good. That’s why I wanna watch ZD30 now!

  31. Did you just equivocate LYING with TORTURE? It’s the same thing? Umm no it’s not. Here’s a hint – one involves degrading a human being physically and emotionally the point where they no longer have the will to live.

    Wow. You Zero Dark Thirty stans are really bending over backwards to blow off criticism. I do hope someday you get to experience what McCain had to go through for 7 years and maybe then you’ll value human beings over an Oscar race.

  32. Film Fatale

    Lis, have you seen Zero Dark Thirty yet? Didn’t think so. Those of us who have know it deserves it’s place at the top of the Oscar race you mention because it is stunningly made, a directorial masterpiece. It has NOTHING to do with valuing movies over human life. Jesus, where do people come up with this stuff?

  33. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    I do hope someday you get to experience what McCain had to go through for 7 years and maybe then you’ll value human beings over an Oscar race.

    Yes, can we please try to value human beings as much a Lis values those of us who disagree with her? — as she hopes someday we’re all tortured.

  34. @Yashar: I’m not talking about the morality of torture. Whether it is right or wrong, that’s up to each person to decide for them self. I mean does it work period. From what I read, it gets mixed to unuseful information. The same efficacy level as data mining. Some of the wrong information gained can result in deaths of agents. According to reporter Jane Meyer’s reseach many governments in modern times use torture mainly for false confessions. 9/11 happened in 2001. The CIA had many years to torture prisoners before Obama came into office. In all that time if torture was so helpful Osama Bin Laden would have been found, dead and buried before 2011.

  35. “To know that Maya is a real person, try turning on the TV sometime and watch the news. On MSNBC today alone I saw two different stories about her on two different programs.
    There’s another way to find out if Maya exists. Top secret tool for gathering intelligence called Google.”

    You are missing the point. Maybe I should have put it in another way. Maya probably exists, but the question is if “Maya” is really the sole person who is responsible mostly for the tracking down of Osama. Quit frankly, I went on Wekipedia, I could not find Maya’s name, and there is no mention of a female CIA agent who is “the motherfucker” who found the compound of Bin Laden.
    Your responses to people who doubt this film are always condescending. You have to defend Sasha, not there is anything wrong with it. It is funny that when you say “It is called GOOGLE”, it is more of a subtle way for you to attack anyone who doesn’t believe this film is the great movie. And again, the point is not whether female CIA agents were involved, the point is whether it is true that one single female CIA agent is solely responsible for the information that led to the killing of Bin Laden. It is called “common sense” and “rationale”. I know you will come back and attack me again by being condescending, you go right ahead. I just don’t buy this “The girl that got Bin Laden” crap. It is hollywood, and it doesn’t matter whether it is Mark Boal or the Oscar winning director of The Hurt Locker that you rave so much. I know it was a group effort, and not “A girl that got Bin Laden”, I am sure you are smart enough to know the difference between being fiction and truth, so don’t give me that, oh please.

  36. Joe Clinton

    A tremendous essay, Ms. Stone. Keep up the good work. I just hope I can handle those scenes for reasons of general squeamishness; moral and political ambiguity I am fine with.

  37. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Quit frankly, I went on Wekipedia, I could not find Maya’s name

    um, most of the spies whose names you’ll find on Wikipedia are spies who have been exposed or those who have been caught spying. Not many intelligence agents are as famous as James Bond.

  38. Yeah, Ryan, it is called “google”, I did google it, and I found this information directly. A terrorist expert who was involved told NPR Maya is a fictional character, it was actually a man.
    Check out this link
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2249458/Zero-Dark-Thirty-heroine-guy-female-claims-terror-expert.html
    So you are telling me Maya is a real character or fictional character? Or you can’t really say??
    I can google more. I bet it is a fictional character. There shouldn’t be anything nothing wrong with that. It is Hollywood, and Bigelow is no different, that is just one example I found from “GOOGLLING”. You are going to defend Bigelow or you really are not sure there is a girl named “MAYA” who saved the day?

  39. Maya is based on a real CIA agent. Here is a recent story about her. http://t.co/AMumNUnI

  40. I am sorry, i just don’t buy that “The girl that got Laden”, give me a break already. There is no Maya, it was simply used to dramatize the story by implementing strong feminism approach to it. Spoiler ahead, I was laughing so hard when Maya said to the secretary of defense in the film. “I am the motherfucker who found it”, oh sure, give me a break.

  41. There is bitching when Bigelow has male leads and now bitching when she has a female lead? Last person I would accuse of making up the Maya character to fit in with some feminist agenda. Bigelow likes her male leads just fine. Maya is a real person.

  42. “Maya is based on a real CIA agent.”
    So it is a fictional name then, it is based on a real CIA agent, so whether it is really a girl who saved the say remains a mystery. I am not doubting there were female CIA agents involved, but I am doubting if she is really the girl that got Bin Laden, sorry. I just don’t buy it.

  43. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    So you are telling me Maya is a real character or fictional character? Or you can’t really say??

    I can say with certainty based on numerous first-hand accounts Maya is a real person. She is a woman. She is not a composite character made up for the movie. She was in charge of the operation, and nobody who’s kept up with this story doubts it.

    Her name isn’t “Maya” you nincompoop. Do you think they’re going to use her real name? Do you think it might be wise to keep her real name and address unknown? Do you not think she would be a target if she was going around chatting about her job with Matt Lauer and Kathy Lee?

    You bet she’s a fictional character? Believe what you want. Come around here every day for the next 3 months telling us that you bet there’s no such person in the CIA.

    You’re the only person saying this, Chung. Doesn’t that tell you anything? You’re the only person who thinks this whole story is fiction.

    You don’t want to educate yourself, fine. I’m not going to lead you by the hand to the dozens of reliable sources.

    Think whatever you want to think, dude. I’ll think what I think, and that includes thinking you’re still mad about Avatar.

  44. It is not a real person if they have to use a fake name, the minute they use a fictitious name, whether Maya is based on a real person or not is debatable.

  45. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Chung that Daily Mail story you linked to had two sentences about a guy who claims Maya didn’t exist.

    Then the very same article you linked continues for more than 40 paragraphs telling us all the reasons we should believe she does exist.

    Believe a middle-brow UK tabloid like the Daily Mail, or believe The Washington Post.

  46. “Think whatever you want to think, dude. I’ll think what I think, and that includes thinking you’re still mad about Avatar.”
    Oh wow, I had totally forgot about Avatar until you mentioned it.
    Ryan, you are your own worst enemy. You can’t stand anyone who criticizes this film. You take it way too personally. Now, since you’ve mentioned it. It was naive to think that Avatar even had a slight chance to win best picture against a rave reviewed war drama.
    To you, it is personal, isn’t it? I don’t give a damn about Avatar not winning best picture. I thought The Hurt Locker was a pretty decent Oscar winner.
    Now now, you sound like one of those angry IMDB posters who is incapable of accepting different opinions.
    It is hilarious that you would bring Avatar to the conversation.
    I am not mad about the Avatar not winning, but I was disappointed, but I am not mad.
    You are the one who has a problem. You can’t accept negative opinions about this film. You have to defend Sasha, you have to defend Bigelow. Looks like you aer still mad at anyone who dare to doubt Bigelow’s films,lol.
    Ryan, take it easy.

  47. Ryan, you are missing the point. The point is no one can really conclude if Maya is a real character or not, but since you decide to live in the bubble, I can’t stop you there.
    It is not i think whoever I want to think. It is you who are incapable of accepting negative opinions about this film.
    I don’t buy the “The girl that got Laden” fiction, and you responded to by saying I am still mad at Avatar?????LOL
    You can do better than that, Ryan.

  48. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    To you, it is personal, isn’t it? I don’t give a damn about Avatar not winning best picture.

    Then you’re a different Chung.

    We had a guy named Chung who harped on Avatar in over a hundred comments in 2009-2010.

    ok, so Chung isn’t a rare name, but you two are the only readers we’ve ever had named Chung. Since you both do nothing but disparage Kathryn Bigelow, I jumped to the conclusion that you’re the same person.

    Still not convinced you’re not the same person. (See how aggravating it is trying to reason with someone who stubbornly sticks to unfounded doubts?)

  49. So Ryan, you are telling me that Maya is a real name, uh?
    Or you are going to continue to be condescending by saying I am still mad at Avatar’s being defeated by The Hurt Locker 2 years ago?
    I am allowed to doubt whether Maya is a real character. The fact is no one can really confirm it. I want to see interviews, I want to see real photos like Argo provided, or I would have preferred to see a better disclaimer about the how factually accurate this film is about Maya.

    I don’t care about Avatar that much anymore. I understand why it didn’t win. I guess you are still mad at people who do not like Bigelow. I just didn’t like it as much as others do, and I provided the reasons, and you are biting my head off.

  50. “Then you’re a different Chung.
    We had a guy named Chung who harped on Avatar in over a hundred comments in 2009-2010.
    ok, so Chung isn’t a rare name, but you two are the only readers we’ve ever had named Chung. Since you both do nothing but disparage Kathryn Bigelow, I jumped to the conclusion that you’re the same person.”
    Oh please, I have been the same Chung, I was Chung, I have been Chung, and I will always be Chung. You hated my persistence, and now, you are pulling the same crap again. Don’t give me that crap about “Oh, i thought you were the same Chung”. Come on, you are playing personal games now?LOL
    You think i will be afraid of what I did before? Yes, I was also Matt because I tried to remain anonymous, wow, you do remember. I am not another Chung, I am the same Chung, so what? What’s your point? You seem angry.

  51. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    So Ryan, you are telling me that Maya is a real name, uh?

    Everyone has known from Day One that Maya is not the agent’s real name.

    Do you understand anything at all about the CIA? Here’s a true fact that might help you grasp this situation: CIA agents do not much like having their identities revealed.

    Maybe that’s why you can’t find “Maya The CIA Agent” or “Badass Motherfucker Maya” on Wikipedia.

  52. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Please check your inbox Chung. Several emails you wrote me in 2010, I’d like to remind you what you were saying about The Hurt Locker and Avatar back then, ok?

    Now we’re going to stop junking up this page with bickering because it’s boring.

  53. rufussondheim

    Valerie Plame, anyone?

  54. “Quit frankly, I went on Wekipedia, I could not find Maya’s name”

    That line alone made it worth the effort wading through this quagmire. Bless you!

  55. “Badass Motherfucker Maya” – Quentin Tarantino ‘s next movie? Please?

  56. Scottish Jellyfish

    The Avatar fans return to grind a Bigelow film. It feels like 2009/2010 all over again.

  57. Scottish Jellyfish

    Almost everything about Zero Dark Thirty reminds me of what happened to THL during 2009/2010 Oscar season. It’s not a coincidence either. Remember Sigourney Weaver calling out Bigelow. A well known feminist saying Bigelow only got in because she’s a female. LMAO. It’s awesome to watch the hypocrisy weed itself out when fellow artists dog a true artisan.

    The links these people provide are almost bread from the same ilk that tried to stain The Hurt Locker. People want attention. Competing companies are out to diminish other films possibilities.

  58. unlikely hood

    I do think there’s left-wing hypocrisy happening here. When Jane Mayer profiled Joel Surnow, creator of “24”, in the New Yorker back in 2007 (feel free to google), the blogosphere lit up with left-wing outrage. Now we (I’m a leftist) are mostly holding our tongues because it’s Kathryn Bigelow.

    Are you telling me that you can hide behind “Oh but ZDT really happened!”? That could be seen as *less* reason to show torture. Besides, you don’t know ZDT really happened. You also don’t know that “24” scenes weren’t based on real stories. (Ok, you can rule out the one where LA got nuked.) We do know that a lot of West Point grads (again, google) were saying that it was ok to torture because they’d seen it on 24. Even if I grant you all this “fog of war” business of Owen Glieberman et al, you haven’t said a word about how Bigelow’s film may affect future policy.

    Like AnthonyP, I’m just a normal person who hasn’t been able to see the film yet. Perhaps my opinion will change. But so far I don’t particularly like what I’m hearing.

  59. rufussondheim

    The problem, Chung, is that you went on Wekipedia. You should try Wikipedia. It’s more comprehensive. It’s where I go when I want to get national security secrets.

  60. Not going to argue the validity or fallacy of torture.

    But I would say to anyone that if you do not like this country, then do not live here.

  61. Haven’t seen the film, but it’s interesting that, by most accounts…it doesn’t go all the way to “endorsing” torture, but it was definitely effective, now wasn’t it? And ambivalence towards an evil act really isn’t that much better then endorsing it.

  62. If a Republican was in the White House, a male directed ZD30, and the protagonist was male … well, you do the math.

  63. Rufuss, that is just one example, no one knows exactly what happened except the ones who were involved.

  64. The issue I have with the film isn’t that torture is shown, or even the fact that it winks at us that it works. The issue to me is that those who support the film have so gone over board that they are labeling a person using an immoral method as a “badass”. I got us much fun watching Goodfellas as any other, but I’d never argue that Henry Hill was a “badass” as Sasha is doing here with Maya. It’s telling of how far some have gone to defend this film. Amazing.

    Either both terror and torture are immoral, or both are moral, and both can be defended as “badass”.

  65. PS: Can anyone explain to me how using torture equals having “biggest balls” around ? No wonder no one have been brought to justice for the Iraq-war and the torture of detainees in US courts when someone as often reasonable as Sasha now holds someone as morally bankrupt as Maya as some kind of female ideal.

  66. “And ambivalence towards an evil act really isn’t that much better then endorsing it.”

    Maybe, jeremy, but by neither condemning nor endorsing, it sure is getting the response it was looking for. The audience is on the spot to make up their own minds – and many aren’t happy being called out on that.

  67. Film Fatale: Those of us who have know it deserves it’s place at the top of the Oscar race you mention because it is stunningly made, a directorial masterpiece. It has NOTHING to do with valuing movies over human life. Jesus, where do people come up with this stuff?

    HOLLA!! Well said!

  68. Liberals are hilariously hypocritical on this torture issue. When it was a campaign issue against Bush, everyone was morally outraged by it. When it’s an Oscar favorite directed by Kathryn Bigelow, then all of a sudden, it’s totally cool and not any worse than lying. (good lord sasha, you’ve become such a joke)

    Sad fact is most liberals like Sasha still see a character like Maya and think she’s a badass hero, when the CIA spent most of its existence ruining the lives of every middle eastern country it can get its hands on. but of course, the guys being tortured aren’t white so why should you care?

    The fact that you’d rather believe that Mark Boal got super secret information from the CIA and was actually allowed to use it over the possibility that he just made this shit up to get more buzz is also hilarious.

  69. Since when does including torture in a movie and thinking that’s a masterful piece of filmmaking mean you also condone torture?

    I’m so completely lost by all of this. It’s rather insane that people are holding this film up as the end all be all of what we stand for in our foreign policy. I’m a bleeding heart liberal and don’t condone torture in any way, but it happened. This movie shows it happened. Period. Doesn’t mean I’m now down for Torture having seen and being blown away by the damn thing. Bigalow crafted a meticulous, angry, thoughtful procedural. Plain and simple. To call her and Boal out for being pro-torture is so absurd. It’s like arguing with a group of 13 year old movie buffs.

    Speaking of which, CHUNG!

    I’m glad you saw the movie. You made your opinion. (Now don’t loose your lid and say I’m being condescending just because I’m discussing your thoughts) I must say though its strange you would get on this movie’s ass for being ‘unreal’ with its facts and what-not but you champion ARGO which has all but been proven by countless people that most of that movies final Act had been embellished or a word that was used by you to describe ZD30… Cliched. Either way, we share different tastes. This is my kind of movie. That is yours. But I can harp on ‘facts’ all day when it comes to movies based on real events. Though, I gotta say, you aren’t doing yourself any favors coming out full force exclaiming ‘you don’t buy a woman doing this’ added onto the fact that you practically wrote this movie off weeks and weeks ago. And yes, we can start linking back to those if need be.

    Being condesending goes both ways my friend. It’s a message board. We’re here to poke and scream at one another. Deal with Ryan getting at you just like you’re getting at him. Stop calling him out on the way he talks to you when you’re being equally snide.

    So you saw it. You didn’t like It. By the way, what are you favorites of the year so far? Wondering. One film fan to the other.

    P.S. I’m disappointed in Gibney’s article. I’m all for criticizing a film on its merits (or lack-there-of) but to say a film is a masterful piece of filmmaking but then counter that by saying its topic was presented in an ‘irresponsible’ seems so backwards. Again, going back to my first thoughts. Why the hell is this an issue?

    Burn all the books!
    Stupid

  70. 1,001 grammatical errors late at night on my cell. Deal with it ;)

    Cheers everyone and enjoy the holidays.
    Don’t let this ‘irresponsible’ movie give you any ideas when the grandparents come to visit.

    Blah.

    ZD30 = Best of 2012

    Fact.

    ;)

  71. Wooden Lens, whether a film is the best or not is a matter of opinion.

  72. “Though, I gotta say, you aren’t doing yourself any favors coming out full force exclaiming ‘you don’t buy a woman doing this’ added onto the fact that you practically wrote this movie off weeks and weeks ago. And yes, we can start linking back to those if need be.”
    I just feel kind of skeptical about Maya being in charge of everything, and I am not alone. I don’t have problems with the waterboarding scenes, and in real life, I honestly do not believe a CIA agent would dare say to the secretary of defense that she is the motherfucker that found that compound. That particular scene feels like it was just a Hollywood rendition of a typical strong female character, it was supposed to make the audience cheer, but it was so hokey that i heard many audience laughed at that scene. The whole idea of “Maya, the girl that got Bin Laden” just doesn’t feel right to me. It might have been real, or somewhere in between? Just like the waterboarding scenes? Who knows? As a film, it is a well made film, but it is not a film that makes one think, it doesn’t have humanity, it is cold, and it focuses too much on not standing for anything. We know nothing about Maya, and eventually, the most exciting part is the last 30 minutes of the film, and that is not to say I am only into mindless action scenes, I want to a film that makes me think and feel, like Argo, like Lincoln,like Life of Pi. ZDT fell short in that department.

  73. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    I just feel kind of skeptical about Maya being in charge of everything, and I am not alone.

    nah, you’re pretty much alone. It’s just you and handful of crackpots. Name a few of the other people who don’t believe a woman could lead a team of CIA specialists. You don’t have to name 10 or 20 others besides yourself. Just name 5.

    Shame you have a problem imagining that woman could rise up through the ranks over a period of 8 years and eventually become the senior intelligence officer on the team. But it’s just that: Your problem.

  74. rufussondheim

    Haven’t seen the film yet, but personally I like the fact that we don’t know anything about Maya. In lesser hands the film would have given her a backstory. But why do we need one? Because she’s a woman?

    Watched Once Upon a Time in Anatolia last week, and about one hour and 45 minutes in we kind of begin to realize that the doctor character is not just one of the ensemble but the main character. And it’s kind of a stunning moment for the viewer since he was never given a backstory. But that doesn’t mean he was a blank slate, it meant that we had to draw conclusions based on what we were shown rather than what we were told. And that allowed for some great viewing.

    Now with Maya, we know she’s the central character going in (but I wish I didn’t) but still, it’s great that we get to discover what kind of person she is rather than be told.

  75. Chung, I almost completely agree with your assessment of this film, and I do think its liberal defenders (or those that are silent) are silence out of a misplaced sense of feminism which I’ve discussed before. But I do have to say – Maya *is* a real person. Whether she is solely or almost entirely responsible for catching bin Laden is a debate I am unequipped to participate in. But there was a ‘Maya’ – she goes by a different name in ‘No Easy Day’ and there was an article about her recently in the Washington Post. She exists.

    But I do have to agree with Vince. If this had happened under Bush or McCain and had a male lead or even just a male director, none of the lawyer-like defense, bending over backwards to justify a movie that blatantly promotes the idea that torture led to getting good information, would be on here. ZDT is pro-torture, and every credible news and governmental source says so and refutes its implications. It is a dangerous and erroneous movie.

  76. Ryan, here we go again, I know I might end up being deleted again if I keep it up with you. I know I am not alone, I don’t mean to make you mad, but you think Rex Reed is alone too? There is simply no “concrete” evidence whatsoever that shows that “Maya” is in charge of everything. I still don’t buy it. It is not NAH, it yeah, I know I am not alone. It is my opinion, and I will stand by it and no matter how much you want to convince me or try to make me sound like a conspiracy theorist, it is not going to work, you will never convince me. I never said Maya doesn’t exist, I just don’t believe that she is the only one that is in charge of everything. Feel free to disagree, or you want to use your power to warn me, or put me on pending mode again? You go right ahead.

  77. “Shame you have a problem imagining that woman could rise up through the ranks over a period of 8 years and eventually become the senior intelligence officer on the team. But it’s just that: Your problem.”

    I feel skeptical about whether she is really in charge of everything, that doesn’t mean I do not believe a woman could be in charge and get things done. It is total nonsense, Ryan. I am sorry, I don’t mean to be condescending, but you simply are trying to bully me so I will give up on commenting on this forum with my opinion. Your problem is that you assume whatever the film tells you is truth. Anyone should be allowed to doubt it since the truth might be half way in between.

  78. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    you simply are trying to bully me so I will give up on commenting on this forum with my opinion.

    Chung, If we didn’t find your comments sometimes amusing but usually interesting there are quicker ways to have your comments vanish from the site then trying to torture you into silence with a haphazard Gaslight treatment of mind-games.

    You’re always trying to pretend you’re standing up for The People Who Disagree With Ryan, but dozens of people disagree me every day — dozens are on this very page — and the only thing I’m taking time to energetically debate is the solid assertion that the character of Maya is based on a real woman who led the team that got Bin Laden. She’s the same woman hundreds of people know and many have openly admired. You would know this if you watched extensive news coverage where reliable people talk about facts — instead of falling back on what “doesn’t feel right” to you.

    I’m taking time to say you’re wrong because yours is the silliest of all the attacks on this very great movie and it’s the easiest to shoot down.

  79. “I’m taking time to say you’re wrong because yours is the silliest of all the attacks on this very great movie and it’s the easiest to shoot down”
    First of all, I never said Maya is not a real person, I only question how much she is charge, let me make that clear. I just feel skeptical about about whether Maya is in charge of everything that leads to the discovery of the compound. Second, feeling skeptical is an attack on the film?? “Silliest” attack, that is condescending, that is your style, you have problems with people who dislike the film, pure and simple. I’d better stop right here before you start warning me again.

  80. Ryan, I have voiced my opinion about this film too many times. There is no right or wrong in my opinion, but there is no reasoning with you. Yes, I have seen you argue with others who feel the same way about you. You think what you want, I thin what I want, maybe we can move on and talk about something else if you let me, but please, I wish you would stop attacking me already, I hear you. You think ZDT is a great film that tells 100 percent truth, fine, I disagree, it is simple.

  81. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Chung says tonight: “First of all, I never said Maya is not a real person

    Chung says 12/23: “I am allowed to doubt whether Maya is a real character. The fact is no one can really confirm it. I want to see interviews, I want to see real photos”

    Chung says 12/23: “I found this information directly. A terrorist expert who was involved told NPR Maya is a fictional character, it was actually a man.”

    Chung says 12/22: “The point is no one can really conclude if Maya is a real character or not”

    Chung says 12/22: “There is no Maya, it was simply used to dramatize the story ”

    Chung says 12/22: “if “Maya” in fact exists in real life, I would not have had this kind of criticism, so anyone can tell me if Maya exists in real life”

    Chung says 12/22: “It is not a real person if they have to use a fake name

  82. Yeah, Ryan, keep posting what I said, thanks.
    I stand by what I said. I firmly believe that whether Maya is in charge of everything remains a mystery. Taking words out of context is a new attack mode of yours?

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