Zero Dark Thirty & Torture

March 24, 2013 8:44 a.m.

I finally saw Zero Dark Thirty last night. Liked it a lot as a movie. Found it sort of hard to imagine in retrospect how Argo (which I also liked) beat it for Best Picture. But then I thought Les Miserables should have won and I never saw Lincoln. So who knows? But it’s the issue of torture that makes me bring it up.Given the intense controversy that emerged from the film and the fact that even US Senators got up in arms about it, I expected the film to be a strong endorsement of torture or at least to make a pretty clear argument that it was torture that led us to bin Laden. But when I saw the actual film it didn’t really seem that way at all. It seemed at least more ambiguous than I’d been led to believe.

A number of articles I’d read referred to the scene where the lead character played by Jessica Chastain watches President Obama definitively say the US was out of the torture business. The descriptions I’d heard had Chastain’s character either literally or metaphorically shaking her head at the President’s naiveté and wrongheadedness. But the scene seemed more flat and noncommittal in the actual viewing.

Now, I’m not saying that some key parts of the movie couldn’t be construed that way. And I think it’s quite possible that I was so prepped by the media and commentary to see these pro-torture themes that in the event it was just underwhelming. I might well have reacted differently if I hadn’t come into it with such a strong set of expectations.

But I’m curious: did anyone else have this same reaction?

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