The Darkness of ‘Zero Dark Thirty’
I enjoy movies. The experience of a dark theater, a thrilling plot, heartfelt acting, spectacular scenery, gripping drama, soaring music, and breathtaking cinematography. Those are just a few of the things I love about them. I’m more of a historical/dramatic/realist/melancholy type of fan. Sure, comedies are somewhat amusing, but I enjoy so few of them.
I always enjoy keeping track of the movies that come up during the year, and guessing which might be nominated for an Oscar. Usually by the time the awards come around, I’ve seen the majority of the ones which are up for a golden statuette. If not, I try and make it a point to view a few more I might have missed as the Oscars approach. As I said, I love movies.
One such movie that has garnered generally rave reviews is ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ which was directed by Kathryn Bigelow and stars the immensely talented Jessica Chastain. As you may well know, the movie depicts events involving efforts to find terror mastermind Osama bin Laden, as well as the eventual raid on his Pakistani compound in the first few days of May 2011. The movie is very well done, in my opinion, and deserves its five Academy Award nominations, two of which are Best Picture and Best Actress.
As we are now coming upon a week away from the Oscars, Hollywood seems to have begun stirring the well known dislike of this film even more. Upon release, several critics, while expressing their general praise for the well done aspects of the film, could not help but harp on its scenes of interrogation. It was almost incomprehensible to them that a film actually show in gritty detail what kind of cost is attached to recovering information in this terrorist age. The critics began to express their dislike for the idea that American agents may have used methods of torture, such as waterboarding, in an attempt to gather details about those in the Al-Qaeda network. Those critics have not just included actual film critics, but actors, such as Ed Asner, and plenty of other Hollywood elite who are so disgusted by ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ that they cannot visualize awarding it as an achievement of film.
Besides the dislike of graphic torture scenes, plenty of critics have moved one step beyond to lead the charge that the movie is wholly inaccurate in its depiction that those methods were useful or even used at all.
CIA Director Leon Panetta, in a Meet the Press appearance two weeks ago, said the following:
“The real story is that in order to put the puzzle of intelligence together that led us to bin Laden, there was a lot of intelligence. There were a lot of pieces out there that were part of that puzzle. Yes, some of it came from some of the tactics that were used at that time, interrogation tactics that were used, but the fact is, we — we put together most of that intelligence without having to resort to that.”
I respect the honesty of Director Panetta’s response to such a question. Surely he has taken heat from both sides, those pro “enhanced interrogation tactics” and those not. In reality, as he stated, there were many pieces to the puzzle.
My problem with the Hollywood Left is that they cannot fathom a world where the United States, as goodwill ambassador to all, might have to employ such tactics to save American lives in the future or atone for those already lost. They rant and rave about one in their own circle even showing such things on a cinema screen. Believe me, the torture scenes, while they ARE hard to watch, are much, much less graphic than your typical Hollywood horror fare. Pick anything out of the disgusting ‘Saw’ franchise and you’ve seen something worse. But never mind about that horror rot. It doesn’t disturb them.
Author Naomi Wolf, in her January 4, 2013 piece in The Guardian, directed at Kathryn Bigelow:
“…the path your career has now taken reminds of no one so much as that other female film pioneer who became, eventually, an apologist for evil: Leni Riefenstahl. Riefenstahl’s 1935 Triumph of the Will, which glorified Nazi military power, was a massive hit in Germany. Riefenstahl was the first female film director to be hailed worldwide…Like Riefenstahl, you are a great artist. But now you will be remembered forever as torture’s handmaiden.”
Ms. Wolf is misguided to say the least. There is nothing about ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ that wallows in scenes of torture or enhanced interrogation. Those scenes take place, and then the movie continues on. Kathryn Bigelow is no mouthpiece for torture. As many lucid critics have said, the movie does not take a pro or anti-torture stance. You cannot ascertain the political leanings of the filmmaker. It is most definitely NOT a propaganda piece, as was the abhorrent Riefenstahl’s fare. It is a movie (remember, a MOVIE) which details as best a movie can the trajectory from some of the most atrocious events of our time, to the confronting of the mastermind of that evil.
Is ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ gritty? Yes. Is it tough to watch at times? Of course. However, I maintain that the actual acts of terror were much more horrific and disturbingly grand in scope. Unfortunately, the Hollywood Left is so blinded by maintaining the United States clean record of goodness, that it outweighs their desire to see justice done. That is darker to me than any scene in the movie. And that is why the movie will, I believe, go home empty handed on February 24.