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Kathryn Bigelow Defends her film in the LA Times

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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.

85 Comments on this Post

  1. I think the tagline should have been: “What a little waterboarding and hummus can do”

  2. The damage has already been done and the (loud and outspoken) moron contingent of The Academy has gotten their way. Congratulations on screwing up again, AMPAS.

  3. John Zulovitz

    Actually, there’s something this article got wrong. Abu Ahmed’s name is given by Ammar, though not when he is being tortured. He is sitting outside, eating food, being questioned by Maya and Dan. (Maya wears a scarf in deference to Ammar’s religious beliefs.) Ammar is not tortured in that scene.

    When Abu Ahmed’s family name is discovered, it is not done by torturing someone; rather, it is discovered in a file that was misplaced and then discovered by one of Maya’s colleagues.

    True, others speak of Abu Ahmed whilst they’re being tortured, but the name was given to Maya and Dan by Ammar during a scene in which he was not being tortured. As for those scenes where he is being tortured, he offers no viable information. The film shows this clearly. However, Ms. Bigelow and Mr. Boal are the kind of artists who do not feel it necessary to spoon feed their audiences; they treat them decently by respecting their intelligence and ability to glean and observe.

  4. It’s a shame that you’re perpetuating one of the most unfair myths related to Zero Dark Thirty. In no scene of torture does any detainee ever release any vital information. Zero. No scene. It simply doesn’t happen. In the first torture sequence, the detainee insults his interrogators before being water boarded, after which he says nothing. In the second sequence (stripped naked and then enclosed in a box), he starts spouting nonsense, rattling off days of the week an upcoming attack is supposed to take place. When does he give up the name of the courier (who, by the way, the interrogators are not even specifically asking for; he’s just answering a question)? When he is treated like a human being and given food and drink (plus a little bluffing on the part of the investigators). What about another detainee who gets water boarded when asked about the courier? He gives blatantly false information. If you haven’t seen the film, then see it, but don’t just sit there and argue with post hoc ergo propter hoc, because that’s lazy thinking on your part. The film neither condones torture, nor does it explicitly state that torture led to the killing of Bin Laden.

  5. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    ^^
    oh good. this again.

    I sincerely do appreciate your level-headed tone, John and Max. But can I ask you guys something?

    Do you get the impression that Ammar would have graciously offered up Abu Ahmed’s name if all he ever did was sit around outside, eating food, politely being questioned by Maya and Dan? Or was he maybe just eventually sick and tired of getting water up his nose during the hours when he wasn’t invited to brunch?

    Be honest now. Don’t make me give you a cup of fruit to exhaust the truth out of you.

  6. Chris138

    I agree with the above posts that the film doesn’t condone or condemn the use of torture. However, I suppose the argument still carries on that while, yes, no useful (or coherent) information was given while being tortured, it was because of being kept awake for 96 hours that he cannot remember any of it and is tricked into giving further information. Torture serves as a context of sorts, as evidenced when Jason Clarke threatens the detainee that he will “hang his arms from the ceiling again” if he doesn’t cooperate. This is where film critics such as Owen Gleiberman (who is a liberal and loved the film) believe that Bigelow and Boal are ultimately saying that these techniques did help in leading to finding Bin Laden’s courier.

  7. But if torture did indeed help in finding Bin Laden’s courier…what, should Bigelow and Boal have not included it? If that’s what happened, that’s what happened. It doesn’t mean they’re saying “hey, look, torture works!” They’re just depicting what happened.

    I’m against torture myself, but perhaps people should be blaming fate for not allowing reality to conform to your political and moral stances. Yes, the United States should not be engaging in torture. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible that torture could have led to some real headway in the hunt for Bin Laden.

  8. It doesn’t matter what happens on Academy night, ZERO DARK THIRTY is Best Picture of 2012; Kathryn Bigelow is Best Director, Mark Boal wrote the Best Original Screenplay. It’s also the Best Edited film in my opinion. What I’m boggled by is why people refuse to see it as what it really is: just a film. There’s is zero effort to perpetuate any ideas, endorse any theories. The film is all about crafting tension for viewers on a story they already know how it ends. PERIOD. My experience watching Zero Dark Thirty was all about experiencing film craftsmanship – at its finest. Set up was typical of any good film: there’s the first act, mid point, climax and anticlimax. Pacing was perfectly even; not once did the story lag, not once did the tension drop. Stakes rose and rose with a payoff which, while uncharacteristically unclimactic, was extremely satisfying. The scene in which the Navy Seals get to the third floor, stop at the stairs and start whispering, “Osama, Osama, Osama” – my mouth was agape throughout. This is why I want the film rewarded at the Oscars. It’s craftsmanship is nothing short of exemplary.

  9. *uncharectaristically unclimactic”; *Its craftmanship..

    [fixed – ryan]

  10. The debates are based on nonsense. There is no such thing as a good faith torture program. It is a CIA/Hollywood invention. In fact the CIA replaced competent FBI interrogators who were getting results. Meaning it is simply not accurate to say the CIA resorted to torture because it was deemed a necessity. One possibility put forth (I believe by Ron Suskind in The One Percent Doctrine) was that Tenet was jealous that the FBI was upstaging the CIA. Other credible accounts state that the Bush administration was frustrated that no links to Iraqi involvement in 9/11 were being discovered. Many torture advocates don’t want to talk about how many Americans were likely murdered because the torture program helped increase anti-Americanism and thus aided terrorist recruiting.

  11. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    torture advocates don’t want to talk about how many Americans were likely murdered because the torture program helped increase anti-Americanism and thus aided terrorist recruiting.

    oh shit. You mean all we had to do was stop being mean to the people who were trying to kill us and then they would lose interest in killing us? that’s a great idea! I wish you were CIA director!

  12. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    don’t want to talk about how many Americans were likely murdered

    no, but really YOU should talk about it.
    I’d like to know how many. please tell us how many.
    how did you ever find out the number? you must have some cool sources.

    it’s great how YOUR debate points don’t have any nonsense at all.

  13. Max,
    I agree, I was writing the same things, but can’t I’m taking a plane now, so thanks for expressing it!

    The only thing I don’t agree on is the lunch: a lunch like that is torture nonetheless because it is consequent to putting and keeping the detainee in a disgusting harsh condition. So, no civilized lunch with prisoners is portrayed in the film but most important it’s a misreading, in my opinion, to say that the film affirms that torture was the key useful practice that let them find Osama Bin Laden

  14. So it was ok to put all Americans at greater risk (meaning military personnel too) in order for some US officials to appear “tough on terror?” Opposition to needlessly provoking people for no good reason is somehow tantamount to being a terrorist appeaser?

    The use of torture inflamed the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am reminded of Bush’s infamous comment “Bring ‘em on.”

  15. Ryan,

    I apologize if you’ve already answered these, but I had a couple questions. 1. What period of time between the torture (waterboarding) and the lunch is acceptable for you not to label the information as ever coming from torture? Or if someone won’t give up information, is tortured, and eventually gives up a nugget, is it always because of torture in your mind? I believe the lunch is 6 months from the waterboarding scene — would it make a difference if he hadn’t been waterboarded for a couple years? 2. Do you believe sleep deprivation, loud music, forced disrobing (basically everything we saw but the waterboarding) is torture? Because your government doesn’t (though I do, especially in the case of the 48 days of it the real Anmar supposedly went through before he gave the courier nickname up per Bergen). 3. Considering we don’t know the whole story (Bergen says one thing, Bowden another, Feinstein and Levin another, etc.), do you think it’s a problem that people are so definitive on this one way or another?

  16. Jade Fox

    So I’m the only one who noticed the part in the movie where *spoiler alert* Maya’s boss wanted to drop the Abu Ahmed info because there was a claim that the man was dead? If the guy had been confirmed dead then the torture wouldn’t have worked and they would’ve been back at square one. Only when it was confirmed that Ahmed was still alive(and they didn’t use torture for that) did torture even had any effectiveness.

    It was the gathering of intelligent information that proved to be far more effective in tracking Bin Laden. That and bribing the dude in Kuwait with a sports car.

    That said, I still don’t think the movie condones torture. It’s too ambiguous on the subject, and the backlash is getting embarrassing. It’s like people don’t want to admit that inhumane practices were used in the hunt for Bin Laden. It’s like people wanted Bigelow and Boal to make a standard action flick that glosses over the unsavory aspects of the facts.

    I guess people only want to see the best in their country. That’s probably why so many politicians are so pro Lincoln because it makes government look good. Me, I rather see the truth. That way we can learn how to be better people and be a better country by confronting those ugly truths.

    Idealistic of me, I know.

  17. As a european I frankly find this debate surreal. The American left seem to desperately cling to the idea that torture doesn’t work, as if that is a necessary argument against it. It’s not cognitive dissonance to believe both that torture works and that it is wrong. Of course torture works, in exactly the same way that mugging works and threat of jail (essentially violence) works. if someone knows something and you hurt them they are definitely more likely to tell you what they know if it will make you stop. It’s as obvious as daylight, and anyone who’s either perpetrated school ground bullying or suffered it will tell you it’s true.

    And it is precisely because it works that we must fight against it. If it didn’t work no-one would do it. It works and it is morally reprehensible and wrong and no civilised society should engage in it, and we have to use all our efforts to prevent our governments from using it.

    And yet America’s brightest and most politically engaged left wing citizens are obsessed with arguing that torture doesn’t work. And because it’s so hard to argue that it becomes difficult to oppose torture. It’s like trying to argue that rape is wrong because it’s impossible to achieve coitus, or that burglary is wrong because it’s impossible to make a profit selling the stolen goods.

    To think that the supposed left wing in america have achieved the destruction of the reputation of one it’s greatest female film makers (no snubs for Mark Boal i notice, who is the one who decided to keep torture in) because a work of fiction dares to portray torture as part of the hunt for bin laden (which it indisputably was) is frankly reprehensible. And to be honest the obsession with chasing the fantasy that torture is ineffective dilutes the debate and allows the government to get away with this stuff.

    Sorry for the rant, I’m just getting really angry about this.

  18. Well said, Danny!

  19. Haggar said: It doesn’t matter what happens on Academy night, ZERO DARK THIRTY is Best Picture of 2012; Kathryn Bigelow is Best Director, Mark Boal wrote the Best Original Screenplay. It’s also the Best Edited film in my opinion. What I’m boggled by is why people refuse to see it as what it really is: just a film. There’s is zero effort to perpetuate any ideas, endorse any theories. The film is all about crafting tension for viewers on a story they already know how it ends. PERIOD. My experience watching Zero Dark Thirty was all about experiencing film craftsmanship – at its finest. Set up was typical of any good film: there’s the first act, mid point, climax and anticlimax. Pacing was perfectly even; not once did the story lag, not once did the tension drop. Stakes rose and rose with a payoff which, while uncharacteristically unclimactic, was extremely satisfying. The scene in which the Navy Seals get to the third floor, stop at the stairs and start whispering, “Osama, Osama, Osama” – my mouth was agape throughout. This is why I want the film rewarded at the Oscars. It’s craftsmanship is nothing short of exemplary.

    —–

    THIS!! Well said!! Yes, the damage has already been done. Sony Pictures, this film should have been defended during the nomination period. You dropped the ball and let the controversy pervade all thought, all the absolute, unparalleled raves from top critics. It’s absolutely a shame that Kathryn Bigelow wasn’t nominated for Best Director….but to also miss Cinematography, Score, and Sound Mixing marks a severe misjudgment on the part of the Academy.

  20. Oh definitely this movie is pretty much toast at the Oscars. Its the “social network” syndrome redux. Too complex to fully comprehend. When you don’t make it easy for the audience then you lose.

  21. Bob Burns

    ” 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.”

    Yes, and there are people who assert that the civil war was not about slavery…. so that is in “dispute”,too. Climate science is “in dispute”. . Your assertions and Ms Biglow’s are as credible as the climate change deniers and the apologists for the Confederacy.

    The heart of her argument (and yours) “in dispute” is a transparent dodge. Sad that she is using it, probably on the bad advice of flacks and lawyers. Nixonesque.

    The question is not whether Ms Bigelow’s film endorses torture. The issue is that she misportrays torture as instrumental in obtaining useful information.

  22. And I just want to commend Danny’s comment. That was as spot on a critical assessment of not only our foreign policy, but the echo chamber nature of our political views as well as the double standard we place on Women working in the industry.

  23. Bryce Forestieri

    I agree with and support everything Ms. Bigelow says in her defense. I didn’t think ZERO DARK THIRTY(4/5) was as great THE HURT LOCKER(5/5), but she is right about everything.

  24. Seriously, it DOES NOT matter if torture works or it doesn’t. Most of the time torture WILL work, why? Because detainees want the abuse to end. This movie has it, it doesn’t shy away from it. Let’s not turn this into something political or throw our morals around because guess what? It’s a movie. Yes, more likely than not this sort of thing happened when questioning the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. Where was this controversy when Syriana was released? Oh I know, the controversy is only around because some people don’t want to admit that torture MAY have brought an end to the greatest manhunt in history. Otherwise it wouldn’t be such a big issue. I mean really, do we need to poke holes in the story to find the bullshit? Bigelow can do whatever she wants in her films. People can be appalled all they want, it means they are feeling something. Better to shock people then have them bored. I can’t believe this country has come to a “point your fingers and blame” nation where things on screen “are an endorsement.” Take a movie for what it is.

    Sorry for this rant, it’s early, I haven’t finished my coffee…which seems to be the reason for my rants.

  25. Apologies, opening sentence should read, “…if torture works or it doesn’t in the film”

  26. Freddy Ardanza

    Inserting political ideology on a story that happen to be based on true events, true facts, is not honest. Zero Dark Thirty is a film based on true facts and Bigelow tell this with total impartiality without putting her own political views on screen, that’s honesty and that’s the big difference between this film and the movie Lincoln, that tell the story of a republican President from the perspective of a liberal filmmaker. ZDT is a honest and inteligent exercise of great cinema.

  27. Best movie i’ve seen in the past 5+ years. It’s a shame that she wasn’t nominated for Director and that the film has close to no shot at winning Best Pic due to all the ludicrous controversy.

  28. [SPOILERS]

    The reason that Ammar gives up the name isn’t because he gets a nice meal. He gives up the name because he believes he has already betrayed Al Qaeda while being deprived of sleep for 96 hours, and the sleep deprivation keeps him from being able to remember whether or not that’s the case. The meal is a prop in an act to convince him that he’s already betrayed them, thus making him an outcast and making further resistance pointless.

    You can have every reasonable permutation of moral debate about it. But that’s the scene.

  29. Bryce Forestieri

    A bit of old news by now and surely a lot of ya’ll have seen in by now but this is a phenomenal discussion on Charlie Rose about the film:

    http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/12726

  30. If I were Bigelow I would not defend anything. A director is an artist and cinema is an art. There is no point in defending an art work. That is it.

  31. There is a reason that these interrogations did not take place on US soil, in places such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia (our allies mind you) you can pretty much do whatever the hell you want to your prisoner… this is portrayed in the film, this is not fiction, this happened. Whether or not waterboarding, sleep deprivation, forced nudity, loud music, trickery, or a combination led to Anmar releasing the name can be debated until the end of days. BUT what is known is that a detainee gave up the information, and it was not given up freely. Anmar was not a gangbanger looking for a plea bargain, he was not involved in a string of robberies and he rolled over on his friends for a lesser sentence. He was an extremist willing to fight until the death. I am not condoning torture, but it happened.

    It is like people who believe that the mission in Abbotabad was a capture mission… do they really think that OBL was going to be whisked away and given a freshly ironed jump suit?

    All films bend the truth in the interest of entertainment. Argo did this, Lincoln did this, Titanic did this. The King’s Speech did this. Saving Private Ryan did this. Schindler’s List did this. Yada. Yada. Yada. They are movies. Hollywood needs to get off of its high horse.

    ZDT was a fantastic film. It was brilliantly scripted, directed, shot, acted, and edited. It was a long film, but it never felt like it dragged. That is far more than I can say for Lincoln.

  32. Regardless of the topic, it is sad that a director (an artist) feels the need to defend her movie.

    By the way, where is the screenwriter? Why does he get the easy way out, if this is a real issue?

  33. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Best movie i’ve seen in the past 5+ years. It’s a shame that she wasn’t nominated for Director and that the film has close to no shot at winning Best Pic due to all the ludicrous controversy.

    Well if it’s any consolation it was always a long shot to win without a SAG ensemble nod. The controversy is part of it but the other part is that she won in 2009. Those two obstacles were always going to work against Bigelow and Zero Dark Thirty.

  34. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    The problem is Jade is that the “truth” here has not yet been uncovered – this is why the movie can be dangerous. People like assume it is the truth.

  35. Aragorn, Mark Boal has been defending Bigelow and the film pretty vehemently seeing as how he also produces it. He and the director are the two-headed beast here.

  36. To believe that a filmmaker doesn’t bring their own personal ideologies to a project is really rather not true. Filmakers are usually drawn to a project because something draws them to the project almost like a moth to a flame. It’s not like the old days where Studios assigned directors, actors, and crews to work on specific projects because they had long term contracts. Spielberg has been working on bringing Lincoln to the screen for ten years. He had a vested interest in the project. We hear that story all the time it’s now more the rule than the exception. Directors and Actors who are able to invest in their projects will create or assemble what they believe to be an artistic group that they think will and can produce a project where they have an emotional tie. Sometimes it works and sometimes it fails but that doesn’t remove the personal attachment. Success is tantamount to Kevin Costner and Dances With Wolves while failure is tantamount to Sally Field and Not Without My Daughter. Those are the two that just jumped into my mind at the moment.

    The sad part of this whole controversey is that one issue has overshadowed a film which is one hopes an artistic expression and simply not a tool to endorse particular behavior to make it easier for people to swallow. We’ve seen films that are basically propaganda. As much as I am not crazy about Mark Boal and his take on things or how he utilitizes specific concepts or ideas to express his own position I don’t really believe that he’s just producing propaganda. The pill we’re served up is a little hard too swallow simply because even though in the back of our minds we know it exists we don’t want to be confronted by the concept because of the morality. We don’t want to look at ourselves and say that we’re no better now than the many other societies. We’ve all known about the secret, well not so secret anymore; detention centers used specifically for these types of interrogations so that they didn’t take place on American soil and too some degree using that format it removed us from participating or condoning the practice.

    I think a lot of us who object so vehemently to this whole issue is because we really don’t want to acknowledge a.] that it works b.] that maybe we now live in a time where it is necessary and c.] then we have too grapple with our own conscience.

    Discuss issue and raise your objections or your support but this is an artistic expression. The controversey should not diminish the film. I personally have objected strongly to the issue or rather the use of torture. But that shouldn’t diminish the quality of the film. I know that we all take positions on issues but in this case torture isn’t the only piece of the puzzle. It’s just overshadowing the entire process simply because someone latched onto it and made an issue of it. How many of us would really have given it a second thought if the controversey hadn’t risen? We would have seen the film probably, accepted the premise, perhaps felt uncomfortable by it but then gone home and thought damn that was a good movie.

    I’ve seen all three films that Boal has been involved in and I’m not crazy about his prediliction too illustrate behavior based on inflicting pain without any conscience to that infliction. But that’s what films do. Films are expressions. They’re geared to make us react. Too make us laugh, make us cry, too make us feel some type of empathy towards the bad guy, too make us feel some type of support for the good guy, but too make us feel something. Zero makes you feel something. May not be comfortable with it but it does what it does. But because it makes you feel something that shouldn’t diminish the acoomplishment.

    I think in some degree the conversation about torture has diminished the accomplishment of Zero and that’s wrong. Diminish the act. Diminish the need for the act. Don’t diminish the artistic expression that accomplished making you question something we’re personally unconformtable with.

  37. rufussondheim

    One thing that’s never discussed is whether the information could have been gotten without the torture. Yes, the film suggests torture assisted in the getting of information. But since other methods were not tried it doesn’t mean that torture is the best way. It’s just the easiest way.

    Bigelow was in a bind either way here. On one side we have the neoconservatives saying torture was essential, on the other side we have progressives saying it played no part. I think Bigelow did a fine job splitting the differente. She had to show it, it happened. Did it give info directly? No.

    Either way it’s a side issue and it has obviously garnered way more attention than it deserves. We can only hope that the Academy comes to its sense by Mid February and vote for what’s easily the best film of the year.

  38. Mohammed

    Too many liberals who are strong critics of the film don’t want to be confronted with their complicity via Obama. The best and only way americans could’ve confronted this immoral behaviour would’ve been if the people who ordered it, and the people who executed it were brought to justice. That did not happen because Obama decided that it’s not important enough. The same applies to the Irak war, a very criminal act according to International Law.

    American Law forbids torture. But how much does that matter when the Executive can decide what constitutes torture? Not a squat. Obama is as guilty of covering up crimes as Bush was. But he speaks a good game. That’s all that matters for some.

  39. The German

    Besides changing the identities of those involved, I believe Bigelow was left out because she doesn’t pontificate her political positions within the film. Many on the Left thought this would be a repudiation of Bush’s foreign policy, and some on the Right believed sensitive information would be compremised. Neither turned out to be the case. But since the Academy is filled with bleeding hearts, witnessing the execution of water boarding was probably too much for their empathetic hearts. Its a joke that this film is surrounded by controversy. This is Bigelow’s best film to date. And Chastain should (probably won’t) win the oscar.

  40. i don’t give a damn, ZERO DARK THIRTY is by far the best film of the year, AMPAS always gets shied away from films the second it starts to stir a controversy. it’s a weakness that they need to but would never be able to come over any time soon.

  41. I thought that we have reached a level of cynicism by now, in this day and age to not have something like this be such a huge issue.

    I don’t understand how someone as respected as Kathryn Bigelow is can’t be trusted that, after the mountain of evidence she received (most likely more than anyone here has seen, including Sasha), she wouldn’t be very careful about how she depicts this obvious sensitive issue.

    You seriously, seriously, don’t think that interrogators wouldn’t use the psychological advantage they have over the detainees in order to get information? We all agree that detainees get tortured and waterboarded right? So that’s in there, it’s in the movie, it’s been proven as true and it happened and there’s absolutely zero dispute about that. OK.

    The issue seems to be about the fact that Ammer gave up information because of the psychological damage inflicted on him, sleep deprivation and the idea that if he DOESN’T confirm the information they convinced him that he already told them, he’d be tortured again. So it’s the IDEA OF TORTURE that got him to finally give up this “valuable” information.

    Do you seriously doubt that this wouldn’t happen in real life, in war, in order to potentially save American lives and bring down America’s number one enemy? Come on guys, be real, please.

    Bigelow and Boal are getting a helluva lot of shit for this and for the life of me, I can’t believe that even someone like Sasha who is a big Bigelow fan, supported Hurt Locker so much and was ecstatic over her win, would question her judgement on this. Over an issue like this.

    Not to mention that Ammer didn’t even give them anything substantial, it all just led to a bunch of dead ends.

    I’m completely baffled by this controversy.

  42. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    “That did not happen because Obama decided that it’s not important enough.”

    Here’s an alternate history scenario for you:

    Obama takes office in 2009 and on day one proclaims his #1 priority is to bring Bush administration officials to justice for any war crimes Bush and Cheney sanctioned. Republican US Congress loses its mind. Planet Earth spirals into devastating global economic depression the likes of which has never before been seen in human history.

    If President Obama had doggedly pursued a modern-day Nuremberg trial, the US government would have imploded. That’s a fact. Anyone who doesn’t see how that would have been a calamitous use of the president’s power and energy has not the slightest clue about how much insanity is woven into the fabric of international government.

    It’s so insane that I wouldn’t be shocked to discover part of the 2008 economic crisis was engineered expressly so that powerful war criminals could skate free and safely hide under rocks in Texas while the subsequent administration had to stay busy putting out a dozen different urgent fires that the previous administration set aflame before leaving office.

    So bravo to all you people who wish the President had stood up for the rights of a dozen terrorist associates who have devoted their lives to destruction of western civilization. Me, I’m ok with focusing first on preserving western civilization as the “more important” goal of the US President.

  43. Bryce Forestieri

    @The German

    That’s a cause I can get behind. The Performances were in my opinion the best thing about the movie. Bigelow’s command of performance is fucking astounding in this thing just like in THE HURT LOCKER. Totally agree that Chastain would be a worthy/deserving winner. 2nd best female performance of 2012 after Riva. If this were a fair world Jason Clarke would have been nominated instead of Alan Arkin.

    Let me say it again so I can feel better: JASON CLARKE SHOULD BE NOMINATED IN BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR INSTEAD OF ALAN ARKIN. *sight* quite cathartic

    Also Jennifer Ehle should have been a contender in Best Supporting Actress, she should have been the John Hawkes of this year.

  44. Alex Brando

    After reading Kathryn Bigelow’s quite concise opinion, I finally see what’s the real problem. It’s NOT the fact the movie puts it out there (and doesn’t refute) the thesis that torture was a helpful part in the hunt for Bin Laden. It is rather, the MORALITY of the majority of the American public, who are going to take this LITERALLY. And not only those gun-loving Republicans, but of all of those Americans who believe in the so-called exceptionalism of the country, but fail to address in their minds the horrors the US perpetrates abroad. (in the name of democracy)

    THOSE people are going to think in their mind, that if, even remotely torture helped the hunt for Bin Laden, then it is ACCEPTABLE, because killing enemy number 1 is of primary importance.

    So, in this context, Bigelow doesn’t have any guilt on making a blunt and real movie on the subject. I even thought the torture scenes were a bit soft for this caliber of inhumane treatment. Neither is the fault for the torture only up to the officials who exercised it, but to everyone in America who didn’t feel that they needed to voice a moral objection to it. (liberal Hollywood has been a champion on this) Therefore, it is not really surprising that Bigelow didn’t get her most-deserving nomination – it is hard sometimes for people to look themselves in the mirror, when they don’t like what they’ll see there.

  45. Alex Brando

    Of course you could see Bigelow’s conflicting character (which some people already noticed after her incessant will to make political movies about subjects she is sure to get a lot of patriotic support) when she says that she is pacifist at one point in the article, and then at the end she talks in the language of safety and security at all costs, an argument often used to justify “un-pacifist” actions in US foreign policy. But even so, the movie is strong, and it will stand the test of time, to be hopefully seen one day as a necessary reflection to some of the precursors for 9/11…

  46. unlikely hood

    I can’t spend all day on this AGAIN. I have 3 syllabi to finish writing, my semester starts next week.

    However I’m glad to see that I’m not the only contrarian one anymore.

    Danny –

    Nik G –

    I have made about 100 comments on this already in the last week. Feel free to look back on the site. But one thing I have *never* said is that torture doesn’t work. You are right to lambast the hypocrisy of those who say that as part of their critique of ZDT. You are WRONG to present that canard here as though that’s the only credible objection to the film.

    In 40 comments here, no one has used any metaphors. I’ll say again, as I’ve said before – that’s rare. In years past, you guys would always trot out Brokeback Mountain or Chicago or A Beautiful Mind or what have you as the reason that this or that makes sense. But no one can make sense of ZDT based on any other films. Well – no one but me. Again, check the previous 100 comments I’ve made in the last week.

    Bigelow doesn’t use any metaphors either – she alludes to previous films that showed graphic abuses. Sure. But I’d say she doesn’t call out any by name for a reason. If she mentioned any, we’d say – but that film doesn’t leave you thinking that our hero HAD to rape that person to kill Saddam Hussein, or the equivalent. ZDT at least leaves that question in doubt.

    I’ll say I liked Bigelow’s statement. But I think – as Sasha has written elsewhere – she doesn’t seem to know her own film as well as us viewers do.

    Why show all that torture in the first hour at all, then? What was the point? Were we supposed to see it like a film where a man takes a swan-like metal detector to a beach for an hour – he finds no gold – and then in the second hour he reconciles with his estranged daughter and then he finds the gold? I mean, huh?

    Screenplay 101 says that the futility experienced by our heroes in the first hour leads to achieving the goal in the second hour. It’s often a character-building exercise. No, every film doesn’t have to follow Syd Field’s formula, but there’s no reason to suggest that ZDT is avant-garde on the level of, say, Memento. There is NO FILM BEFORE ZERO DARK THIRTY – feel free to prove me wrong – where the hero(es) flail for an hour, THEN get what they want, without us explicitly being told that all the flailing was futile – without us somehow thinking that the flailing led to the goal.

    I’ll say it again: imagine a film about the Tuskegee experiments on black people that never once suggested that our heroes, the scientists, felt any moral conflict about exposing blacks to syphilis. Imagine if the scientists were high-fiving each other at the end because of some new discovery about syphilis’ DNA strand or something. Would we know for A FACT that all these experiments led to their discovery? No. But then, why show them? Why have us sympathize with people doing evil, who never show us their inner moral conflict? Why have them kvetch when the government sends signals as though to shut them down?

    Bigelow would have us believe she just went Harmony Korine on a true story. Darkness, darkness, darkness, I’m just portraying the culture here. But a) Korine doesn’t do true stories, b) he DOES get plenty of shit from critics for the shit he makes up, c) in ZDT we don’t really feel that we’ve been through Dante’s Inferno. I know that’s subjective, but I don’t see our heroes feeling like they just raped people. But they should. Based on Bigelow’s Strange Days, she’s done this sort of moral hand-washing before.

    Rufussondheim and I have been going back and forth on the exact meaning of causality. If Catwoman kills Bane with a gun – and makes a little crack about the effectiveness of guns – does that mean that was the only way to kill him? Of course not. Maybe Batman could have just turned around and pulled off Bane’s mask. But come on, of course the guns worked in this case. Just like we’re left to think that torture worked in this case.

    All Bigelow had to do was include a *little* more from Peter Bergen’s book Manhunt – a little more about the moral discussions the interrogators had amongst each other. I’m not telling her how to make a film and she’s right about free speech. But I do think she could have improved this film.

    I love Zero Dark Thirty. I love, love, love, Silence of the Lambs. It’s one of my favorite films, ever. But gays then caused a firestorm about stereotypes perpetuated by the Jame Gumb character (this, I can cite chapter and verse from the Amy Taubin book about the film). I don’t think gays were wrong to object (notice the Academy didn’t take them as seriously as they do others now). So can a favorite film have a fatal flaw? YES. In that case, Jonathan Demme was so taken aback he made Philadelphia his next film. I hope for a similar outcome from Bigelow and Boal.

  47. Reader Rob posted this wonderful quote from Pauline Kael on the thread containing Sasha’s great Lincoln piece last night. I think it’s doubly appropriate here:

    ”How do you make a good movie in this country without being jumped on?” (Pauline Kael)

    Bigelow owes nobody neither apology nor explanation. She made a film based on the information and resources at her disposal and it happens to be one of the best films of the year.

    The only people with access to resources as good as or better than hers, and who can validly challenge what she has done, are likely part of the problem. The rest of us don’t know anything, even if you think you do.

    If you don’t like her film, that’s fine – your perogative; if it bothers you, even better. Think about it and try and learn something.

  48. HA! We were posting simultaneously, unlikely hood!

    I, too, don’t have time for this one today, but it’s so temptng. Turn it off, now!

  49. For me Zero Dark Thirty is the best film of 2012, just I hope Lincoln or SLP not winning

  50. Why show all that torture in the first hour at all, then? What was the point? Were we supposed to see it like a film where a man takes a swan-like metal detector to a beach for an hour – he finds no gold – and then in the second hour he reconciles with his estranged daughter and then he finds the gold? I mean, huh?

    Maybe Batman could have just turned around and pulled off Bane’s mask. But come on, of course the guns worked in this case. Just like we’re left to think that torture worked in this case.

    unlikelyhood, you’re one of the smartest posters I’ve come across on this site. I’m sure that there must be some kind of misunderstanding here but I’m genuinely surprised that you would be looking at this in such a one dimensional way.

    “Torture was used in the beginning of the story. By the end of the story they got their target. Ergo, torture works.”

    If things were that simple in life, the world would be a much easier place to understand.

    The point of showing the torture in the beginning is that it’s part of the story. We can all agree with that right? If the torture WASN’T shown, it would be a gross oversight and a clear political agenda for the film, situating it clearly on one political side of fence. That’s not what this film is about. This film is about trusting its audience enough, trusting that the people are intelligent enough to come up with their own conclusions. My conclusion is, torture was used, it was used in excess, almost all of it proved pointless, the tortured were made to be sympathized with, and the reason they got the courier’s name is because of Maya’s cunning and intelligence. Very simple.

    So no, we’re not left to think that torture works. That’s exactly what we’re NOT left with. We’re left to question the morality of it in a film that isn’t afraid to show the ugly, messy, truth.

    And don’t compare a Batman film to Zero Dark Thirty. I know both are feature films, but one is clearly a hyper-reality while the other is clearly a live-action journalistic experience based on first-hand accounts.

  51. I don’t think they showed that torture got the name at all. They showed that is how they got the name initially in 2002-2003, but then they go through a whole sequence later with quite a few people giving up the same exact name while not being tortured. So in essence, it showed me that if they’d had patience they would have gotten the name just the same.

  52. Bigelow has guts.
    And talent.
    That’s what matters for me.

  53. Just to be absolutely clear, it seems obvious to me that ZDT shows torture working, and while I understand Katherine Bigelow’s reluctance to admit that, She’s being disingenuous suggesting otherwise.

    But my point is that her reluctance comes from the fact that there is this self defeating obsession by the left that torture MUST be shown to fail, as if portraying it working somehow justifies it.

    ZDT shows torture in part working and demands that we come away and try to decide whether the ends justified the means. I left deciding it certainly didn’t. Others may come away deciding it did.

    But to decide a priori that torture doesn’t work, and then criticise the film for showing it working is madness. By criticising the movie for displaying torture working you are tacitly inferring that the objection to torture hangs on it not working, and by doing so weakening the argument against it. Whether torture worked or not in this case, and whether that is truthfully portrayed is really irrelevant. What the government did and still do in it’s citizens name is indisputably wrong in itself, and would be no matter how positive the outcome.

    I hope that makes my position clear.

  54. Stevie gee

    Haven’t commented on a post on this website for a few years now, though I check it a lot… was going to try and craft an intelligent and articulate response to all of this but then I read danny’s response and realized I didn’t have to because I couldn’t say it any better.

    All I will add is that I am an American, and I am a democrat, not a liberal per se, but a democrat, and the argument that torture is wrong is one that I completely agree with, the argument that torture doesn’t work is so ridiculously misguided and naive that it makes other things that person may say seem ridiculous as well. People have tortured for centuries for one reason, because clearly it works.

    Also, Ryan, couldn’t agree more, Ammar only gives up the info while being treated kindly because he was tortured beforehand… only someone trying to purposely NOT see that would miss that.

    Sorry for any typos…I suck at typing on a iPad.

  55. Unlikely hood

    Nik G – I guess it’s perception. I did not get the definitive sense that nothing in the first hour did anything to help find UBL. I’d say they left that open. I think – if you leave that open – you need to show something in our heroes other than “aw, what do you mean we can’t use torture anymore?” Maybe it didnt work but certainly our heroes wanted it to. Yes I have loved films with anti-heroes – but this film hardly makes their moral lapses clear. It’s shot and edited just as Dick Cheney would have asked for. I just think, in a world where Americans are more pro-torture than they were 15 years ago, and social scientists partly blame “24” – that’s a tad irresponsible.

  56. Stevie gee

    Unlikely hood….I appreciated your post and tend to agree…the only movie I can think of where nothing anyone does the first hour of a movie is (spoiler) Raiders of the Lost Ark…which is my favorite movie of all time as it goes. Take Indy out of the movie, say the nazis find it without his help, because he actually helps them find it, does the end change at all…every single thing he did in the movie was actually useless because nothing he did changed the ending at all, except that the Ark wouldn’t have been somewhere in a lost warehouse

  57. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    (McSoto — Those are 3 smart questions. I’m not neglecting them. Just got involved with other things this morning and haven’t had time to reply yet. I’ll take a moment to give you 3 simple mellow answers later today, ok?)

  58. unlikely hood

    Stevie gee

    The thing is, I wouldn’t say Indy was flailing for the first part of the film. He was following a trail, and his laudable goal (at least we’re told it’s laudable) is to get this ark into a museum before the Nazis can get their hands on it. Nazis of course want power. But we don’t see the process as useless – Indy is leaving his professor job, seeing Marian again, and in the process becoming more of the person he should be (and more attractive to Marian) and less the cloistered professor that he was.

    For defenders of ZDT, the first half was basically flailing in the dark for an hour and maybe eventually you get a light switch. I can see that, but I’d say it was raping in the dark for an hour. And we shouldn’t get to see that as perhaps necessary. There should be some moral discussion. This isn’t about spoon-feeding – lots of films don’t spoon-feed – NO OTHER FILM EVER DID THIS. Rufus thinks the last 10 minutes are the comeuppance. I don’t quite see that. I wish I did. Maya looks confused, tired, and finally weepy – but for all we know that’s just because she doesn’t know what she wants to do next with her life, like Inigo Montoya at the end of the Princess Bride.

    I’ll say this: she’d make a great Dread Pirate Roberts.

  59. THIS WOMAN NEEDS TO GET ON 60 MINUTES!! Sony Pictures WAKE UP!

  60. Stevie Gee

    Unlikely Hood:

    First, you are far more articulate than I could ever be, so I’m not going to try and meet your standard there…that said:

    The Indy comparison, you’re right that he wasn’t “flailing” but it’s hard to argue in the end that what he himself did, while noble, wasn’t fairly pointless…though I was mostly joking around with that second post and I do see what you’re getting at.

    As to the final shot of the movie, I didn’t see it as that, I didn’t get an Inigo Montoya lack of future plans, or more to the point a final shot of “The Graduate” vibe from it. I got more of a pure exhaustion vibe from it. Granted she didn’t know where to go, where she was going but the “weepy” I took from it was more of a “I’m so tired from what I’ve just done the last ten years”, as opposed to a “oh shit, what am I going to do next” She seemed (or maybe this is just how I think I would feel) mentally drained and I would hope that for a while she wouldn’t want to do anything “next”

    Looking the way you do the Maya character I can see some more of your objections to the entire way the beginning of the film was handled, I just never got that from the character or the performance, I saw a woman who was pretty much always in control, who just didn’t like the situation and the things she had to do because of it. She didn’t like torturing someone but felt in was necessary to perform her job. She was constantly in the face of death and stood strong while others (in her estimation, though again, probably in mine) crumbled or lost their nerve. She did what she thought was necessary at the time the decisions were made, nothing more nothing less, and in the context of the movie, she was right. Even if all she got from that first hour was a name, that’s more than anything anyone else in the movie, or on the outskirts of the movie had gotten.

    All this said, I wish Bigelow didn’t have to defend or even discuss her movie like this and the movie could just speak for itself, while the viewers, who are the ones who really decide for themselves what the movie says, argue about it

  61. Mohammed

    @Ryan: For someone as Obama who sees himself as someone standing on the shoulder of the Civil Rights movement, heeding the words of Dr King that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and having the tools to prosecute the people who clearly were guilty of war crimes, it’s a disgrace that he didn’t do it. That’s on Obama.

    Second; I’m shocked that in your eyes prosecuting people who are guilty of crimes is a threat to the United States. Perhaps you are comfortable with what happened in Abu Ghareib, but I’m not, and I don’t believe anyone should be.

    Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis died and none of the people responsible in the US or UK has been brought to justice. Those victims are no less valuable or less deserving of justice as the victims of 9/11.

    Your unwillingness to recognise the wrongness of Obamas approach to simply overlook war crimes is a telling sign that Bigelows film is pointless. In a society where even Liberals believe that NOT prosecuting Bush and his cronies was a right decision, it’s pointless to even adress the torture of hundreds.

    I can’t even believe that ” I was trying to save the economy” is a good enough excuse for some people to forego justice. You learn something new every day, I guess.

  62. mikeyone

    Zero Dark Thirty is an excellent MOVIE about a real event. It is not real, why can’t some people make this distinction? Kathryn Bigelow is a director, she is not a torturer.

  63. Did the US employ torture? Most likely. Is it still going on? Maybe. Are these same critics in the senate and media- did they do anything during the Bush years to try and stop this? What’s interesting is- in Lincoln’s time (and in the movie)- achieving something for the good of the nation meant having to do something, well, dirty. His govt. (and the movie portrayed him having to do it himself in the 11th hour), had to bribe members of congress for their votes. It was not clean. Neither was getting Osama.

  64. Steve Gee: All this said, I wish Bigelow didn’t have to defend or even discuss her movie like this and the movie could just speak for itself, while the viewers, who are the ones who really decide for themselves what the movie says, argue about it

    —-

    That’s the thing. Bigelow didn’t really defend her film and her decisions when the controversy first began. Her and Mark Boal definitely took the approach of letting the movie speak for itself and were not nearly as aggressive enough as we know in hindsight they should’ve been. And it cost them at least four key nominations, including Best Director.

  65. For defenders of ZDT, the first half was basically flailing in the dark for an hour and maybe eventually you get a light switch. I can see that, but I’d say it was raping in the dark for an hour. And we shouldn’t get to see that as perhaps necessary. There should be some moral discussion. This isn’t about spoon-feeding – lots of films don’t spoon-feed – NO OTHER FILM EVER DID THIS.

    It’s definitely about perception.

    Like I’ve said in another forum of discussion, people who seem to be having a problem with ZDT’s portrayal of torture are people who are more informed than the layman. The layman on the other hand walk away with torture as the last thing on their mind, or at least, “effective torture” as the last thing on their mind. And yet, the people who are calling Bigelow/Boal irresponsible, flippant or whathaveyou because of what the uninformed (layman) takes away from all of it, are actually the only ones walking away and thinking “this movie might just be showing that torture was effective…that’s wrong…”

    I don’t know. The film makes it clear that it’s not a documentary, so the first half of the film has as much to do with building Maya’s character and seeing her evolve as the first half of Raiders is about Indy’s evolution. But in instance you choose to focus on one thing, in another instance you choose to focus on another.

    The film is about Maya’s evolution from field noob to a person who gets her own chopper to go home. I don’t think she’s thinking about the torture in the final moments of the film either, I think she’s thinking about what the experience as whole has done to her and how much she’s been drained just to see a single person dead.

    We see her being disgusted by the torture in the opening moments of the film, that was enough for me.

    But if you think that the first half is just “raping” in the dark and showing unnecessary things (with the moral discussion left to the viewer, not the characters) then you are choosing to ignore everything else that happens in those first half other than torture.

    You make it sound like you watched a snuff film in the first half hour and then it switched into a film about catching Bin Laden.

    It’s like rufus said in another post somewhere, people will see what they want to see.

  66. Antoinette

    Unlike everyone else here, I didn’t like ZDT. However, it does say that torture works. Since I only saw it yesterday, I was able to go in with the debate on AD in my mind. When I got confirmation was later in the film, when the older guy was about to be interrogated. He said something to the effect of ‘you guys tortured me before, I don’t wanna go through that again, ask me anything’. Right then and there, I thought ‘yup pro-torture’

  67. Stevie Gee

    KT: Fair enough, but once the “damage” of not getting nominated was done I wish they would have “stayed above the fray” afterwards as well. This is going to be a hit movie, in large part because of the controversy, some people will find it despicable, some people will find it a masterpiece, others like me, will have enjoyed it immensely while finding some flaws, but it seems like everyone will be talking about it. Any film that creates this type of discussion, to me at least, speaks for itself, without the films director having to defend themselves or the film. People will always see what they want to see, regardless of what the director says. The win for this film is how many people will see it, and therefore talk about it.

    That being said, I know this is an Oscar website and I also love the oscars so if my favorite movie of the year was being this “unfairly” maligned, I’d be upset about it as well

  68. @ Antoinette,

    Thanks for clearing that up, a person who has been tortured tends not to want to be tortured again. Thousands of years of despicable human history say that, not Miss Bigelow. And by the way the guy in that scene lies or at least doesn’t say anything important and Maya infers that he is trying to protect the currier because he is as important as Bin Laden

  69. Unlikely hood

    Nik G – but I loved Maya’s character development. I loved the style of the film – as David Denby called it, “radical realism.” I would have the same issue with Raiders if Indy spent the first half ark-hunting and snuff-film-making.

    I suspect the sad truth is that many of us do think torture isn’t really as bad as rape or child abuse. If Bigelow had shown Maya and Dan flaying babies to get info – if Bigelow knew that that’s really what happened, the CIA had ripped babies in half in front of detainees to get them to spill info – I don’t think as many people here would be like “it’s your perception problem.” I think more people would say that Maya and Dan needed to show a tiny bit more regret for the process. Just saying.

  70. rufussondheim

    As a literary person, as a person who values character development amongst all other things in a film, I choose to see this as a film about Maya, as opposed to a film about the hun for bin Laden. After my second viewing, I realized that a typical, thoughtful person’s experience over the decade plus since 9/11 more or less mirrored that of Maya. The film opens with the phone calls, a brief reminder of how we felt that day.

    But then the film introduces us to Maya and at first she’s a bit in shock, a bit wary of where she’s at and what’s she’s doing. She needs to orient herself. Then she quickly turns to anger, anger at the perpetrators. As time passes and failure looks more likely, she turns to anger against her superiors, the people making the calls. And then, finally, for a brief moment, triumph.

    And that’s where many of us Americans went psychologically. We were sad, shocked, and disoriented, and once the enemies identified it quickly turned to anger. As failure seemed likely, we got angry at our political leaders until one night, triumph, bin Laden was dead.

    But then Bigelow does something I find to be fascinating. She doesn’t let Maya revel. She’s consumed by thought. She’s clearly overwhelmed by what has happened to her, we see her wander through the tent, reservedly identify the dead body, wander outside, then into the waiting aircraft, constantly maintaining an introspective demeanor.

    And in many ways that’s where Americans were. We got our revenge. But how many enemies did we create? How does this help our standing in the world? Did we create more problems than we solved? Was the revenge worth it? And these are all mixed with overwhelming pride for the people who caught bin Laden, the soldiers, the analysts, the spies. It’s a highly complex stew of emotion with no clear answers and it’s overwhelming.

    So where do we go next. Maya does not know. Do we know? We got our revenge, but we lost more lives in doing so than we lost in the first place, we destroyed two countries and tens of thousands of lives. The cost of revenge has been enormous and it will take decades for everyone to recover. It’s overwhelming and it needs to be. So where do we go? And that’s the central question Bigelow is asking in this film.

  71. unlikelyhood; if it was proved that the US Military threw babies against walls or raped their detainees to get information and Bigelow/Boal showed that in the exact same way as they do the torture in the film, with both Maya and Dan regretting that part of their jobs in subtle ways and not saying “boy we really regret that we have to do this…”, I think we’d be having the same discussion, except I imagine those who say that there’s nothing wrong with what’s being presented on screen (because it’s the truth with an artistic license to compensate for time) will be scorned much more than they are now.

    The Invisible War is a great documentary. You see some atrocities there that happens in the U.S. Military, and we’re not even talking about enemies of the state here. And it’s far worse than torture.

    Oh yeah, torture and rape or killing babies is not perceived in the same light because rape and baby-killing is inflicting violence on completely innocent humans. Torture of people who are working with/for people who wish to annihilate your country, aren’t exactly helpless women or new borns. Just my opinion, of course.

    Antoinette: I’m sorry that these AD discussions were on your mind while watching the film, I wonder if your mind would be picking up things like “yep, pro-torture” in a film that is made up of so much more than that. The guy that didn’t want to be tortured in the film only expressed a normal human sentiment (who likes to be tortured?) and he only led them to more dead-ends.

  72. unlikely hood

    I don’t normally say this: I agree with every word rufus just wrote.

    That’s why the film is great, exactly.

    Somehow I find I can love Silence of the Lambs without thinking that its gay-activist critics are idiots. Somehow I find I can agree 100% with rufus here and stand by what I said earlier.

  73. Mohammed

    Nothing’s new under the sun. The lesson learned from this controversy around ZD30 and the whole “war on terror” is that there is nothing wrong with doing despicable things. You just have to point to the good reasons you have for doing it. Barely that.

    During the Vietnam war the left had the ability and willingness to call a spade a spade. Now people of their own free will chose to participate in illegal wars and torture are “heroes”. One can’t celebrate this “heroes” on one hand, while at the same time condemning their actions. You embrace the soldiers and agents who engage in it, you embrace the act.

  74. unlikely hood

    Nik G – Fair enough. Though if you’re going to open the can of worms on “Torture of people who are working with/for people who wish to annihilate your country, aren’t exactly helpless women or new borns” you know I’m going to say that loads of the people interrogated there had about as much connection to Al Qaeda as you and I have to Timothy McVeigh. If finding and killing UBL was the equivalent of stopping a ticking time bomb, why did George W. Bush say he wasn’t worried about him 4 months after 9/11? I get that Bush could have been lying, but did he tell everyone working for him in the CIA that that was a lie? Or did they just figure it out for themselves?

    http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2002/01/22/Bush-not-worried-about-bin-Laden/UPI-14721011747209/

    Anyhoo I’m sure no one really wants to delve deeply into the debates of yester-decade. And I absolutely agree with Bigelow that some of her critics – especially the ones in Congress – might have spent more time stopping real-life torture and less time complaining about a movie. That said, here we talk about movies. And just as I would feel deeply uncomfortable with a film that asks us to root for a hero who seems to condone rape – like Straw Dogs (though at least that wasn’t presented with a title card at the front that said it was a true story) – I feel a trifle uncomfortable with Zero Dark Thirty. Still a great film.

  75. jess4Linc

    Oh, get a grip people. Even the Liberal GOD Obama says he will use torture in the future. “”While the Obama administration has tried to distance itself from some of the harshest counterterrorism techniques, it has also said that at least some forms of renditions will continue.”” So why all the outrage.

  76. To me this ongoing debate only proves that ZDT is an excellent film. It’s not pro or against torture – you could easily make a case for both sides. Instead it makes us think. Maybe even ask ourselves this: why do we see it as pro or against torture? It’s not an easy question and probably some of us wouldn’t like the answers. So it’s perfectly understandable that some people, for whatever reasons, choose not to think about it. It’s just… it’s a shame in my opinion, because this film really deserves attention. When it’s being watched properly, it becomes so much more than a film; it becomes a mirror.

  77. unlikelyhood: Good stuff. Since we both agree with rufus completely, it all of a sudden feels like all this debating has been a drop of discord compared to an ocean of concord.

    Suffice it to say, I do see where you’re coming from on that particular issue.

    Thanks for being a cool debater.

  78. Chris138

    All of this hoopla surrounding Zero Dark Thirty kind of reminds me of the controversy that (still) surrounds Do The Right Thing. Does that film promote violence? Does it not? By the end you’re left to come up with your own conclusions. That’s what makes the film so great, in my opinion. And the same goes for Zero Dark Thirty.

    Aside from Spike Lee’s film I just mentioned, I also thought of The Battle of Algiers while watching ZD30. The way that both are very objective and don’t take any sides on the matter is an impressive achievement and I wish more directors were able to pull that kind of thing off more often in their films, especially with subjects as complex as the War on Terror.

  79. “we were not interested in portraying this military action as free of moral consequences”. But that is EXACTLY what the film was: a by the books this is what happened without any hints of moral consequences or moral objection. I really don’t think Bigelow/Boal/Chastain understand what their film is depicting or projecting. I don’t believe they MEANT it as a defence of the torture policy or to make it pro-torture but I honestly don’t think they understand that their film is presenting only one side of the oonversation on tortue. It was not their intent but that’s what they gave us. It’s strange for Bigelow/Boal/Chastain to keep telling us not to believe our lying eyes.

  80. AnthonyP

    I don’t know why playing thrash metal is supposed to be torturous. I would prefer listening to that than say…2 Chains.

  81. unlikely hood

    all this debating has been a drop of discord compared to an ocean of concord

    eloquently said

  82. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    I can’t even believe that ” I was trying to save the economy” is a good enough excuse for some people to forego justice. You learn something new every day, I guess.

    I hope the main thing you learned today is that no president of the United States has ever had the vast overreaching judicial powers that you seem to think they do. President Obama is not Judge Dredd.

    What country are you from? How much power does your leader have in controlling the international Court of Justice?

    Where’s The Hague in all this? I welcome an international effort to put Bush and Cheney in jail for the rest of their lives.

    It’s amusing and tiresome that people around the world think President Obama could string Bush and Cheney up on charges of war crimes. You have no concept of how rigidly fucked-up the US government has become.

  83. Mohammed

    @Ryan: I’m from Norway, a signatory states party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The US has stated that it does not recognize the court, and it’s the only reason it doesn’t have a jurisdiction in the United States.

    I believed, wrongly perhaps, that torture was illegal even according to american law. Obama could’ve investigated, cleaned house as to what happened, who ordered it and what was known or not known when. He did not do that, and I think that’s because there is an unwritten agreement between the parties that they will not seek criminal proceedings against the other parties administration when it steps down.

  84. rufussondheim

    Mohammed is right. No President will want to worry about facing War Criminal charges when their term is over.

    I recall Obama and his administration quickly putting the idea of seeking charges against Bush/Cheney to bed.

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