Is Zero Dark Thirty Morally Corrupt?

Now let’s hear from the theologians. Samuel Freedman notices how the movie has set up a rather narrow debate: By the first argument, the film is flawed because it does not follow the historical record. By the second, the film is flawed because torture does not work. What neither argument takes up, but what some … Continue reading Is Zero Dark Thirty Morally Corrupt?

Jon Stewart On Zero Dark Thirty, Ctd

Readers offer their impressions of the interview with Jessica Chastain: I say this not as an excuse, but as a partial explanation. I think Jon Stewart has a bit of a blind spot for regarding terrorism in general and Osama Bin Laden in particular. This is one area where he tends to react first as a New Yorker who … Continue reading Jon Stewart On Zero Dark Thirty, Ctd

In Defense of Zero Dark Thirty, Ctd

Alex Pasternack zeroes in on the hardcore music blaring in the film's torture scenes and what it says about Bigelow's agenda. From the lyrics to "Pavlov's Dogs" by Rorschach:

"What have I done / Unconscious to the act / Not realizing until after the fact / Everything evil becomes serene" …

Scoring your torture scene with a song about behaviorial conditioning by a band named after the father of projective psychology (you can listen here) speaks volumes about the filmmakers' attention to detail, and their interest in making a point without making it directly. But unless you know the song (I hadn't ever heard it–Motherboard video editor Chris O'Coin tipped me off), its message of unconcious evil gets buried inside the scene.

He sides with Glenn Kenny and defends Bigelow's cold, unflinching presentation of the horrifying policy:

In Defense Of Zero Dark Thirty

I was a little stunned to find myself defending it after one viewing. I was all ready to start a picket line. But the most pointed and polemical defense of the movie I have yet read is here. It’s from film critic Glenn Kenny. It’s somewhat aggressive to Glenn Greenwald – but Glenn’s a big boy. Read the whole thing, but I like the Ramones analogy: I guess I have more faith in the “standard viewer”. Kenny has a useful bunch of links, expanding on critical defense of the film. If you’re interested, many of them are very much worth exploring:

How Deep Was The CIA’s Involvement In Zero Dark Thirty?


In what is a somewhat delicious irony, the movie that Republicans once denounced as a possible propaganda move for Obama's re-election is now being assailed by the Senate Intelligence Committee as pro-CIA propaganda. Hosenball has the goods:

In the latest controversy surrounding the film, Reuters has learned that the committee will examine records charting contacts between intelligence officials and the film's director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal.

Investigators will examine whether the spy agency gave the filmmakers "inappropriate" access to secret material, said a person familiar with the matter. They will also probe whether CIA personnel are responsible for the portrayal of harsh interrogation practices, and in particular the suggestion that they were effective, the person said.

The intelligence committee's Democrats contend that is factually incorrect.

A couple of comments. Not just the Democrats: McCain is very much in the mix. And I very much hope that Bigelow and Boal are in no way investigated for committing a work of art. That would be a horrifying precedent. The Hosenball piece relieves this anxiety a little:

The person familiar with the committee's plan to review administration dealings with the filmmakers said initially this would involve reviewing uncensored copies of CIA records regarding the film. The committee presently does not plan to contact the filmmakers directly, the source said.

I have no problem with an investigation into whether an agency trying to clear its name in public opinion told a movie-maker or screen-writer self-serving lies. The relationship between the CIA and Hollywood bears scrutiny, especially in this case. But I return to a core disagreement with the Senators involved, Feinstein, Levin and McCain, whose integrity on this matter I do not impugn.

They say that the movie "clearly implies that the CIA's coercive interrogation techniques were effective in eliciting important information related to a courier". The trouble is revealed by the language itself: "clearly implies".

How Accurate Is Zero Dark Thirty? Ctd

David Sirota wants to know whether the CIA or Pentagon edited Zero Dark Thirty's screenplay, noting that such a practice has been commonplace in the past:

When it comes to movies, the collaborative process is a straightforward bargain. Directors want access to Pentagon and CIA hardware and logistical assistance at cut-rate, taxpayer-subsidized prices. Those agencies, through the military and CIA film liaison offices, are typically happy to oblige, as long as directors submit their screenplays for thematic editing of a prospective film’s overall storyline and granular line-editing of the script’s dialogue. That editing, which is only vaguely disclosed in the fine print credits of films, often ends up making films more ideologically pro-military and pro-war. But according to film liaison officials, the objective of the whole review process is simply to make sure a film accurately represents military history and operation.