As a nasty fairytale the CIA helped to make prepares to sweep the board at the Oscars, Simon Basketter isn’t buying any of Zero Dark Thirty’s excuses
Zero Dark Thirty is a much heralded and praised film. It tells the story of how the CIA hunted down Osama Bin Laden. It is appalling.
The premise is simple – the US needed torture to get bin Laden.
The director Kathryn Bigelow says, “The film doesn’t have an agenda, and it doesn’t judge.” The writer Mark Boal claims, “What the film does over the course of two hours is show the complexity of the debate.”
This is disingenuous nonsense. The film doesn’t simply justify torture, it wallows in its justification.
Maya, played by Jessica Chastain, winces as she hands the muscled interrogators a pitcher of water to waterboard a prisoner.
She stands mute when the victim is strung up by ropes, stripped naked, and forced to crawl in a dog collar.
Is she tough enough to do the job? Does she have the ability to participate in torture? Are you tough enough to watch?
Her journey will make her tough enough to stand up to her bosses and get bin Laden. Are you with her or against her?
Torture is questioned—but only in terms of whether bribery might be more efficient. The agent who argues this is later blown up for the error of her ways.
The hunt for bin Laden is a cop chase devoid of context.
Now and then there are terrorist atrocities to remind us of what needs to be done. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t really get a look in.
There are plenty of ominous looking Asian people but they don’t get to say much – even under torture.
The constant use of spook jargon adds to the lies. From the film’s title to “enhanced interrogation techniques” via “detainee evidence” this film is not about realism – It is about obscuring the truth.
We are also meant to side with a CIA torturer who has had enough.
So the man holding a lead is worthy of empathy. The beaten man forced to wear a dog collar is not.
In reality the key evidence to track down the courier who led the CIA to Bin Laden’s hideout was not obtained by torture at all.
The supposed ban on torture slows down the CIA’s ability to confirm bin Laden is in his compound.
One CIA officer complains that he had no way to prove bin Laden’s whereabouts now that the detainees in Guantanamo Bay have lawyers. So torture becomes the necessary tool.
Some critics blinded by cinematographer’s tricks lose the run of themselves – ooh the last half hour is green like through night vision goggles.
But this film is a filthy piece of racist propaganda and no doubt will win plenty of Oscars.
Zero Dark Thirty is on release now