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Now that it's apparent that Kathryn Bigelow's new Bin Laden hunting film "Zero Dark Thirty" doesn't glorify the Obama administration (instead, it is a procedural that focuses on one woman's quest to find the al Qaeda leader), the next big question is how it uses torture, and what that endorses (if anything).

The film opens with the torturing of an al Qaeda courrier, who is waterboarded, sexually humiliated and crammed into a tiny box until he agrees to give up some important information.

Below the fold, here's what the cast and pundits have to say.

"I wish that it wasn't a part of history, but it is and was," Bigelow told the NY Daily News, a quote that was highlighted by Mother Jones, which frets that the film could be seen as endorsing the methods -- the info they get is helpful in their decade-long quest.

They note that the CIA itself has said that torture does not work; captives will either hold onto the information, or lie to get out of the treatment.

As for the actors, they had their own moral quandaries.

"It was really difficult to film even though, of course, we’re acting," star Jessica Chastain, who plays the lead CIA agent, told The Hollywood Reporter last week. "But we filmed it in an active Jordanian prison. The energy wasn’t the best in that place. I’m playing a woman who’s trained to be unemotional and analytically precise. I’ve been trained my whole life to be emotional and to let all my walls down and be very vulnerable. So to put myself in a situation like that it’s like I have to not follow my instincts -- and my instincts, it seemed like that would be to cry. So I had to then show her discomfort, but to go back to her training of being unemotional."

Meanwhile, Jason Clarke went through the waterboarding process himself (with safety precautions, of course), and watched other methods on the internet. Later in the film, they note that the practice has been banned.

Screenwriter Mark Boal, a former journalist, said there was no agenda.

"It's a movie that you can dissect however you want, which is fair enough," he told Indiewire, "but I can tell you as the author that there was no agenda here other than telling a good story and being faithful to the research."

Bigelow echoed that stance. "It's not a filmmaker's position to judge," she said. "I would never do that."

Thoughts? Should a film condemn torture, or just show what happened? Does the filmmaker have a responsibility to be moral? Should a movie be fact checked?

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Comment Preferences

  •  How about just not watching it and giving it legs. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    atana, kurt

    Legs to promote more future films to give those who appreciate torture porno excitement.

    Fear is the Mind Killer...

    by boophus on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 09:53:54 AM PST

  •  Yes, a movie should be fact checked (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    enufisenuf, BRog, rbird

    if it is depicting historic events. Especially events this recent. I have no patience with the 'It's entertainment, not a documentary" mentality.

    And why can't it show that torture is not effective? Not just show the torture used, but show that all they got was junk info that was of use to no one?

    "Life is too important to be taken seriously" Oscar Wilde

    by Annie B on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 09:57:30 AM PST

    •  how could they show that all they got (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      was junk info if they actually got useful information? This makes no sense. Sometimes evil methods actually get valid information.

      •  but more often than not (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        torture is not the most effective method of getting good information.  And the problem is that the torturer doesn't have a method of sorting the "valid information" from the fabrications and fantasy stories.  

        Professional interrogators have consistently discounted the value of torture as an interrogation method.  The problem is that it is favored by armchair tough guys like President Bush and a nation that cannot tell the difference between '24' and reality.  

        Zero Dark Thirty is going to be yet another fictional tale that purports to be true and does so by lying about the efficacy of torture.  

    •  THIS! Too many people have watched "24" where (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BRog, kurt

      Jack Bauer beats the necessary info out of some poor schmuck, not to mention all the other shows/movies over the years showing tortured people "confessing" the necessary bit of info to keep the story moving.

      If people started seeing stories where the torture DID NOT WORK - that, in fact, the torture led to info which in turn led to worsening the situation - minds would start being changed about the efficacy of torture.

      There should also be stories showing how torture damages the torturer as well as the tortured.

      Eventually, torture would only be used by those people who ENJOY seeing the suffering of others, and THEN torture would finally be roundly condemned as immoral.

      •  Your point is valid. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        But the movie ISN'T about torture.

        The author of the diary went on a hand wringing drama trip.

        To illustrate...

        In another movie, Orville and Wilbur Wright cut down spruce trees to build their "Flyer".

        The author of the above diary would have gone off on the irrelevant tangent about the environmental impact of the "deforestation" the Wrights engaged in.

        The diary of  the Wright's "deforestation" would be applicable to the movie, "The Environmental Impacts Of Modern Transport".

        Enagaged activism wins elections. 100 million words on liberal/progressive websites gets beat by one new GOP voter casting their vote.

        by Nebraska68847Dem on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 11:18:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'll trade you ... (4+ / 0-)

    Is a filmmaker who sets out to depict events as they happened, within the framework of a dramatic story, obligated to stick to the facts as they understand them? Or can we just whitewash history, not remind moviegoers just what America did in their name, and pretend like we were moral and aboveboard in our dealings at every moment?

    Spielberg faced a similar problem with Schindler's List, and Clooney did in a lesser example - taking the evil of men and making it palatable for movie audiences. The character Amon Goeth was criticized as being "too unrelievedly brutal" and people asked why Spielberg exaggerated him. The director's response: he'd toned him down from the reality. Audiences complained that Joseph McCarthy's actor was too over the top - when they were in fact watching historical footage.

    I'll tell you what the torture scenes mean. They mean: "we did this, and we should remember that we did." Any resulting moral judgement should be aimed at the act, not its depiction.

  •  this is topic of Glenn Greenwald's column today (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Encourage all to read it.

  •  Author and director already told you (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MrAnon, ConfusedSkyes, lesliet, mythatsme

    the scene was a factual representation.

    NOT everything is a grand conspiracy, an agenda, an endorsement, or condemnation.

    Your diary is much more applicable to a movie concerning the moral questions involved in torture.

    Torture isn't the theme of this movie.

    Enagaged activism wins elections. 100 million words on liberal/progressive websites gets beat by one new GOP voter casting their vote.

    by Nebraska68847Dem on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 10:39:47 AM PST

  •  I have seen the movie. My thoughts... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lisa Lockwood, ConfusedSkyes, rbird, kurt

    The movie does not show water boarding leading to great intel. In fact, the guy who was water boarded gives up his best info weeks or months later after being given a large meal and a cigarette.
    More glaring is the complete omission of Obama's huge role in the success of the mission. Not sure why he was ignored.

    I ♥ President Barack Obama.

    by ericlewis0 on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 10:43:46 AM PST

  •  I think it's wrong to throw a blanket over it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Yeah, you can condemn torture on moral grounds, but to say its ineffective is kidding yourselves. It's something that simply varies from unfortunate person to unfortunate person.

    Many cases we see today are more as forms of punishment rather than intel gathering, but this is in all the worst parts of the worst countries.

    I applaud the directors/writers from trying to make this film as non-political as possible. With such an important topic as the killing of OBL, I think politicizing it or trying to sound preachy would only delegitimize it in the eyes of many.

    a little bit of this, a little bit of that

    by MWV on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 11:05:49 AM PST

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