I just read an article in The Nation by Katha Pollitt (March 4, 2012 issue) that ends like this:
“… I don’t understand how anyone can see this much-praised movie as ambiguous on the torture question. The movie says torture works: ‘In the end, everybody breaks,’ Dan (Jason Clarke) tells the prisoner he is beating, water-boarding, walking like a dog and forcing into a tiny box. ‘It’s biology.’ And sure enough, the man gives up the clue that eventually leads to Osama’s front door. If, in real life, this information was actually obtained by other methods, as Senators Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin attested in a public letter about the film, there’s no suggestion of it onscreen. But the movie does something even worse: it not only makes torture look necessary; it makes the torturers cool. Dan is handsome, smart, humorous and unconventional—his own person in a crowd of company men. When not stringing people from the ceiling, he’s caring—a good friend to Maya, an animal lover. He doesn’t let his job turn him into a brute or a sadist—he knows when he’s reached his emotional limits and gets out. As for Maya, the lonely avenger of 9/11, what can one say? She’s not only smart, dedicated, selfless, brave and tireless—she’s Jessica Chastain! The most beautiful woman in the world, with flowing locks of red-gold hair that light up every scene she’s in, including the one where she fetches a pail of water for the water-boarding.
“The only person in the CIA who will see a day in prison for anything that happened during all this is James Kiriakou, the anti-torture whistleblower recently sentenced to thirty months for revealing the name of a covert CIA officer to a reporter. Don’t hold your breath for a Hollywood movie about him.
While I found Zero Dark Thirty very disturbing and would not recommend it, I do recommend this year’s Oscar- nominated documentaries, which have all been outstanding—including How to Survive a Plague, the inspiring and tear-inducing history of Act Up and the fight for AIDS recognition, as well as Five Broken Cameras, about one West Bank town’s resistance to the Israeli separation wall. Oscar-nominated Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat and his family were detained and questioned at the Los Angeles airport and almost refused entry despite all his documentation and Academy Award invitation. Burnat was able to contact Michael Moore who called the Academy’s lawyer to intervene, and the Palestinian family was released. More here. There’s a story behind every true-story film.