Freedom from Blog

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

I'm really late to this debate, but I finally saw ZD30 last weekend, and, as much as I liked the movie from a cinematic standpoint, in IMHO the movie is pretty unambiguously pro-torture. The film's heroine, "Maya," was not just an observer of torture early in the film, she became an active part of the torture team. Although she eventually finds clues to UBL via other means, she never renounces that initial outlook. The main torturer is presented sympathetically, and he is Maya's main confidant throughout the story. The clear implication of the film is that torture was only abandoned because of weasly politics, hence the cut to footage of candidate Obama denouncing it--his only appearance in the film, which otherwise seeks to erase his pivotal role in (a) re-prioritizing the hunt for UBL, and (b) making the final call at great political risk. Finally, when the key players have their meeting on assessing the odds that UBL is the mystery man in the compound--the scene where everyone else says 60% and Maya says 100%--the intel folks make it clear that there are no direct sources on the ground because we gave up torturing. Eh? How's that logic supposed to work? Were we sending the tortured back out into the field as double agents? Methinks not.

Maybe I missed something, but the pro-torture slant of ZD30 didn't seem that ambiguous to me. One other minor gripe: the scene where Maya's friend and station chief lets the suicide bomber inside the American outpost and gets herself and a bunch of other people killed was way overplayed. The woman was jumping up and down with joy at the arrival and grinning like a little girls at Christmas. I kept expecting her to say "goody, goody!" as the car drove in. For all its "feminist" bona fides, I found this depiction a bit insulting. Since most of the actual participants in this event were killed, this must have been a speculative imagining, but it did not seem to me a credible one.


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