"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Zero Dark Thirty

tn_zerodarkthirtyOkay, we were all horses pulling the Kathryn Bigelow bandwagon, right? We loved her for POINT BREAK and NEAR DARK, mostly. Also BLUE STEEL and STRANGE DAYS and all that. But did any of us ever predict Respectable Kathryn Bigelow would come about, and if so, did we guess how fuckin good that Bigelow would turn out to be? I sure didn’t.

The respect came for THE HURT LOCKER in 2008. It got the Oscar for best picture and she got best director, the only woman to receive that honor so far. It also had one of those career-exploding performances, the one that launched Jeremy Renner, at the time known mainly for playing Jeffrey Dahmer, into the guy who has two Oscar nominations and co-starred in big ass movies like THE AVENGERS and GHOST PROTOCOL and starred in THE BOURNE LEGACY and hosted Saturday Night Live and all this. I loved THE HURT LOCKER, which I saw as an ingeniously structured suspense thriller and character drama for its time that also worked as a deconstruction of many of our favorite action movie tropes. So I had high expectations for ZERO DARK THIRTY, and somehow it exceeded them.

It’s basically an epic intelligence procedural, the clearly-heavily-researched story of the hunt for Osama bin Laden after 9-11. It focuses on “Maya” (Jessica Chastain), a young CIA agent whose obsessive exploration of a particular lead supposedly brought the helicopters to that compound in Abbottobad, Pakistan a couple years ago.

mp_zerodarkthirtyThere’s all kinds of intelligence gathering and maneuvering, alot of it very unpleasant. There’s plenty of “enhanced interrogation” of chained up guys in filthy little shacks (though little or no mention of where these guys came from). There are meetings, bribes, betrayals, favors, hunches, photos pinned up on boards, disagreements, guys in suits who have to be convinced. They move between dusty little offices, CIA black sites, military bases and hotels. Every time a date comes on screen you think “oh shit” and try to remember which terrorist incident happened on that day. For us, when those things happen, there is sorrow for the victims and fear for what could happen to our loved ones or ourselves. For these people it’s a loss, a failure, something to feel guilty about, something to avenge. There’s always a sense of dread and impending doom even though we know the ultimate resolution of the mystery.

And it makes even the more grounded thrillers like, say, the BOURNE movies, seem more like Hollywood bullshit than ever. Because none of these people are portrayed as the standard blowhards and alphas barking out commands and making speeches, and it just feels right that way. They’re portrayed as people. Extraordinary people, obviously, but relatable.

One thing I love is the way they get excited. Maya lights up and says “Thank you!” whenever someone brings her some piece of information she’d been scouring for. When her colleague (and maybe only friend) Jessica (Jennifer Ehle) has set up a meeting with an elusive figure she goes through the agenda as if planning a party. She even makes this guy a birthday cake and laughs at herself for doing it. The two of them text back and forth in all lower case, using words like “wassup.”

It’s probly a personal film for Bigelow, being a successful woman in a male-dominated field, and it’s definitely the most interesting and complex heroine I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. We know almost nothing about her background other than a mysterious reference to being recruited straight out of high school for some specific but unstated reason. And what we know about her life outside of the hunt for bin Laden is that she has none. The most human moments she allows herself are snacks: coming back to where she’s staying, taking off her burqa, eating a Twizzler, drinking a Diet Coke. Still an American.

And yet she’s not any of the standard Strong Woman types. She doesn’t seem like a woman acting like a man, or a model with a gun. Maybe the best example of her strength is how she deals with sitting in on interrogations. The first time the interrogator, Dan (Jason Clarke), thinks she should wear a ski mask like the other guys, but she chooses not to. When she goes inside and sees the place and what’s going on she looks very uncomfortable, but she stays.

There are some standard movie ways this could play out:

1. Her discomfort is to show that she disagrees with this torture, so that we have a protagonist who’s morally above what’s going on in the movie and we can feel good about siding with her

2a. Over the course of the movie she grows more comfortable with the torture to show her becoming more of a hard-assed professional
2b. or to show the desensitizing/dehumanizing effects of the conflict they’re involved in

But it doesn’t go any of these directions. She never seems comfortable in those rooms, and at one point seems to be taking deep breaths to avoid throwing up, but she doesn’t raise an objection or get away from it. She sticks around, because she thinks it’s what she needs to do to achieve her goal. When a detainee begs her for help she just tells him to be truthful. I don’t think this means she doesn’t have any sympathy for him, it just means she knows that’s what she has to say.

She looks pretty cool in sunglasses in some of those stills, but she’s not Sarah Connor. She’s small, she’s young, she screams when shot at. But she’s very determined, and very smart, and will not give up. And she’s not the only brilliant woman like this on the team. It’s interesting, though never pointed out, that they’re going up against a guy who does not in my opinion believe in gender equality. Maybe he should’ve had some Mayas on his team, he would’ve lasted longer.

Just a little aside here, but do you guys think ZERO DUCK THIRTY could be pretty funny? Like a Daffy Duck parody type of thing? Just an idea. Sorry.

Before the movie was shown to anybody there were Republicans trying to make it into a scandal, supposedly the Obama administration was helping Hollywood to make a movie about this so that he would look good ’cause of he thinks he killed bin Laden with his bare hands or whatever. Of course, that’s not even remotely close to what this movie is, the dumbfucks, so the grownups closed the door while they were still crying about it and we don’t listen to that anymore. Now the criticism is coming more from the left.

The debate’s about whether or how much the movie condones torture. Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal say none, but that doesn’t mean you can’t read it that way. On one hand we watch as Dan gets crueller and sicker and still fails to get any information to stop several deadly attacks. On the other hand we hear a few complaints about not being able to use torture after the politics change (as if the agents believe it’s helpful), and the emphasis on these interrogations could leave the impression in some people that it was necessary in order to get to the identity of bin Laden’s courier, although I think it really attributes that to a smart young woman going through old files and figuring out something that everybody else missed.

At first I thought I understood, but disagreed with, the people saying the movie endorses torture. But after reading one too many dumb hit pieces like this one on Buzzfeed it’s starting to piss me off. The thing is, this is not the type of movie where they’re gonna have a character come out and make an anti-torture statement so we know what the filmatists think about it and feel nice and comfortable. They tried to stick to what they knew happened, and unfortunately “enhanced interrogation” happened.

The Buzzfeed guy (who doesn’t sound like he’s seen the movie) criticizes Boal and Bigelow for talking to people in the CIA. In other words, for doing research! They’re doing a true story about the CIA, you want them to just lift quotes from existing sources, like you did for your editorial? Of course we can’t believe everything the CIA tells us, and it’s insulting to assume that Boal, a journalist both embedded and otherwise before he was a screenwriter, didn’t try to sort through his various sources to try to represent something he thought was close to the truth.

Boal and Bigelow originally scripted a movie about the Battle of Tora Bora, infamous as “the time we let bin Laden get away.” I’d like to see that movie too, actually. But after the death of bin Laden they scrapped that idea because they thought this one was now more interesting and relevant. Or, I guess according to Buzzfeed, because they decided to do a complete 180 and become a mouthpiece for CIA propaganda.

If propaganda was what they were going for they did a terrible fucking job, accidentally making a warts-and-all portrait that raises difficult questions about our government’s actions. Comparing ZERO DARK THIRTY to TRIUMPH OF THE WILL (as several Buzzfeed commenters did) or even TOP GUN (as the article did) is being a fucking asshole. TOP GUN has rock songs and is about “the need for speed” and shirtless volleyball. ZERO DARK THIRTY lingers in a dank shack where a prisoner has shit in his pants and isn’t allowed to eat or sit down. When TOP GUN was out, supposedly Navy recruiting went way up, they even started setting up tables in theater lobbies. When I saw ZERO DARK THIRTY I saw a guy so upset by its contents he suddenly leapt up and ran out of the theater, stepping on people’s feet because the whole row was full. (He definitely wasn’t going to take a shit, ’cause he only came back to get a bag he forgot.) If Michael Hastings has really seen the movie he sure has a funny idea of what is appealing and cool to Americans. He really thinks this is supposed to make people comfortable with our foreign policy? What kind of people does he hang out with?

I think the problem many of these editorialists have with the movie is actually that it’s not propaganda. They want to be spoonfed what they’re supposed to think about what they’re seeing, so they can agree or disagree. To process it themselves would not fit into their yay or nay editorial world. They’re looking at a complex piece of art and trying to treat it as a web poll.

I hate war and torture too but I don’t read this as propaganda at all. The part that hit me in the balls was the first cut, from a black screen and a few minutes of September 11, 2001 emergency calls, to 2 years later and American operatives in ski masks stringing up a prisoner in a filthy shack. I guess some people might read this cut as “Those fuckers did that to us, and this is how we’re gonna get them back!” or I guess “It’s not our fault! We had to do this, because of what they did!” But to me it plays more like a lament for the ugly fuckin place we found ourselves, no matter what it was that led us there. I mean, we spend a depressing amount of time in these disgusting places. They make the protagonists seem more like kidnappers than civil servants. These scenes are not over with quickly, and they’re not trying to be tasteful. We mostly see our side tormenting a financier, not even a high level evil bastard, and we see this guy physically, psychologically and sexually degraded.

The main interrogator we see is Dan, a thoughtful PHD who for some reason does this job, and remains sympathetic despite his habit of disingenuously calling his prisoners “bro.” His mind can’t take it, though. He doesn’t voice any regrets about what he’s done, but he has to switch to a desk job. This is not good for anyone.

Chastain and Clarke are the leads and are both superb in the movie. I didn’t even recognize Dan as the quiet thug I just saw in LAWLESS. It’s a huge cast, of course, and I like how you’ll see one agent have a small part in some meeting or interrogation and then you’ll see them at an important event much further down the line and know they’ve been all over the place off screen, chasing leads just like Maya has. Every once in a while a familiar actor will pop up, too: THE MATRIX’s Harold Perrineau, Edgar Ramirez, Mark Strong, James Gandolfini, Mark Duplass, Frank Grillo, Scott Adkins even shows up for a little bit. He doesn’t kick anybody, but I bet he will if there’s a DTV spin-off.

As you might guess, this is all leading up to the raid on bin Laden’s compound, reportedly done by the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, although I didn’t notice them specifically named in the movie. The entire operation is tensely re-created, and it’s one of those even-though-I-know-what-happens-I’m-nervous type of nailbiters. It’s also as unflinching as the torture. There’s no pretense that they’re there to do anything but kill him. We see the expertise and the bravery, we also see an unarmed woman get shot in the back. When they hit their “possible jackpot” there is no catharsis, just disbelief and crying children. The shooter walks away in a daze. I think he’s realizing what he did, but afraid to say it out loud. “I shot the third floor guy” is all he allows himself.

The sequence has no music I think, until the ominous theme that comes on as they quietly fly off into the night, packed in with the body bag, contemplating the enormity of the event.

I thought Joel Edgerton got third billing (now I’m thinking maybe I imagined that) for offering his tough, mostly silent presence to this section. The real star of this part is Chris Pratt, who at first seems like a goofball like his character on Parks and Recreation, but we find out he’s one of the brains here – he oversees the rushed gathering of hard drives and files for intelligence purposes. As they flee there’s a shot of the room and all the stuff they had to leave behind, and after everything we’ve seen in this movie it’s a tragedy. Thousands of potentially life-saving leads left strewn across the floor because the Pakistani military is on the way.

It’s an odd structure, going away from Maya to follow these characters we’ve just met, but it completely works. It made me think of how much I like the episodic structure of Kubrick or Tarantino movies, where you’ll suddenly end up somewhere else with a new group of characters and it feels entirely natural. But really it’s more like LINCOLN, where history required that the climax happen in one place while the hero waits elsewhere for the results.

And where does it leave Maya after all this? Where does she go? We don’t know. She has no home. She has no life and now no mission. I remember when I first finished Seagalogy after 5 years of work. I was so happy, so proud. The next day I was horribly depressed, because I didn’t know what to do next. That was a book about action movies – this lady spent 12 years, her entire adult life so far, tracking one of the greatest villains in American history. Pretty hard to plan a follow-up to that one.

I wonder if Bigelow feels similar? This is a 157 minute thriller that’s captivating from beginning to end, a masterpiece of its type. I don’t know how you go back to POINT BREAK after this one. Or maybe you have to? Either way, great job Respectable Kathryn Bigelow. Great fuckin movie.

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 10th, 2013 at 1:02 am and is filed under Drama, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

203 Responses to “Zero Dark Thirty”

  1. Mark, not Jeremy Strong.
    I agree with everything else.

  2. Great review, Vern. It’s sad to me that these political commentators, whom I agree with about so many things, seem to have a basic misunderstanding of what cinema, what art is about, and what it can achieve when a filmmaker is willing to let viewers figure things out for themselves.

  3. Nice one Vern. I’ve been really confused by the reaction to this film. Subtly and nuance (or even acknowledging the possibility of them) really seems to have been lost in American discourse.

  4. I’m not normally a conspiracy theorist, but does anyone else think that maybe the claim that SEAL Team 6 carried out the operation was just a cover story and instead it was some super secret squad of soldiers the public doesn’t even know about?

    because I’m willing to bet we probably have one and what better time to use them than to kill Bin Laden?

  5. I found the CIA involvement with this film weirdly drawn out. For a film that is fictional, senators sure seemed interested in finding out exactly what the filmmakers learned from them. Who writes a letter to the CIA requesting what they told the filmmakers, unless what ended up on the screen was a little too close to the truth? I think that’s what really happened here.

    Anyway, I’m super excited for this. Glad that this is being trumped as one of the year’s best. It means there is still something really cool to look forward to as we near awards season.

  6. Griff, haven’t you seen THE DEFENDER with Dolph? Bin Laden was a CIA agent posing as an enemy of the USA!

  7. Great film.

    That part about her being recruited out of highschool.
    Where do you have to be for that to happen?

    I have a really smart niece but I wouldn’t use her to find Bin Laden.

    That’s… that’s crazy. In a film with a lot of crazy moments. You end up watching most of this with your eyebrows somewhere in your hairline.

    Things like the raid on the house was depicted so different to what I expected when I read about it in the papers.

    They pretty much rolled up, landed in the garden and spent 40 minutes leisurely strolling around this house to kill the 3 men they came to kill.

    When you watch the these OMG SPECIAL FORCES RE-ENACTMENT!!111!! videos on tv or youtube the emphasis is the opposite: the adrenaline and speed and the go go go.

    Yet if you think about it.
    If you get the first floor and work your way up where are the bad guys going to go? Jump out the window?

    But that’s were the danger is.
    Not in the people they’re going in to kill but the plan itself is so… nuts.
    Land in the garden > walk up two flights of stairs > kill everybody is the whole plan.

    Ambush? They’re dead. RPG? They’re dead. Explosives? They’re dead. People in the surrounding houses? They’re dead.

    I have a better plan when I go to the bathroom.
    Toilet paper? Check. Floor warm? Check. Hand towel? Check. Flys in the room? Negative. Something to read? Check. go go go.

    Oh on a side note how many of you guys think they actually shot and killed Bin Laden?

  8. Looking very much forward to this. The main character does remind me a lot of the main character in Homeland, who is also seeking to bring down a top terrorist.

  9. Personally I think they probably took Bin Laden alive and he’s gonna spend what remains of his life getting water-boarded in surroundings similar to those depicted in the movie. Which is fine by me to be honest.

  10. I assume Bigelow chose not to depict the decision to chuck his body in the ocean because she couldn’t find a way to make it believable.

  11. Bigelow lends herself to pop psychological examination because she’s a woman who makes films about tough guys. Her directorial body of work can be read as a thesis on male machismo. And this movie, like Blue Steel, she inserts a female protagonist in a stereotypically manly man universe.

    She’s an impressive director. She does it intelligently, and she does it well.

    And I just like what she does. I want to see her make so much more. I hope she pushes the envelope, because you sense she’s poised, confident, and shrewd enough to deliver where lesser men (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) would crash and burn.

  12. Bin Laden got capped that night. The kind of dudes they sent after him don’t fuck around and they don’t take many prisoners. I don’t say this from experience, but I have had the honor of knowing a couple guys in similar circles, and their take was “fucker got smoked, which was the plan”.

    Regarding the film: Great movie. Somebody compared it to Zodiac, which I think was very apt. A long procedural about a few people obsessing over a crime/crimes, except in this one the bad guy gets got. Some very hard stuff to watch, between the torture and the various attacks, even the opening credits were tough.

    Anywho, go see this movie.

  13. Can’t wait to see this. Friday night is cordoned off for this.

    Unfortunately my most solid movie partner is a Muslim Bangladeshi woman. I don’t exactly think this will be her cup of tea.

    But I just can’t go to the movies alone. I have to be with somebody. Everybody has their thing, that’s my thing. Along with:

    * Must have popcorn.
    * Cannot miss even only the first 10 seconds of a movie or I am completely crushed.

    Movie excitement gives me OCD.

  14. – BR,

    Not that this movie is the one to try it with, but just try going alone some time. It’s weird and scary at first, but I found it really suited me. I can go see whatever piece of shit I feel like and lord knows finding a good seat is much easier as a single.

    Don’t be afraid.

    Love, Bob

  15. @BR she’ll be fine.
    The torture scenes aren’t there as any kind of promotional tool either way. They’re just there.
    And it’s not a movie where there are clear smoky room bad guys that loom over the whole thing [well apart from the obvious]; it’s people doing a very difficult job. No one is lionised and no one is glorified.

    The thing with Bin Laden.
    They spent 40 minutes walking in that house and they knew there’d be only 3 men + women and children.
    They had so much gear with them, no one figured for flash bangs and tasers for the top floor/last room?

  16. Man, I want to see this so bad, but after reading a bit about the real life Maya, I don’t know if I can watch a movie where she’s a hero.

  17. Harold Perrineau wasn’t in SHOWGIRLS, Vern. Though if he had been the character I think you’re thinking of, he would be known for “Everybody got AIDs and shit.” a lot more than “WAAAAAAAALT!”.

  18. The issue with the depiction of torture in the film is not that no one takes a stand against it. The issue is that the film portrays evidence obtained under torture as crucial to the effort to locate Bin Laden, despite the fact that numerous sources have affirmed repeatedly that this is *not* the case – we found him using intelligence gained from numerous sources, but *not* obtained under torture.

    That is my understanding of the complaint; I have not seen the movie so I am not in a position to say how accurate that is. But if the perspective of the movie is that torture was a crucial or valuable component of the effort to locate him when in fact it was not, then how the characters react to the torture isn’t even germane.

  19. You’re right Stu, that was Glen Plummer. I shoulda gone with MATRIX. I’m losin it. I’ll fix it, thanks. (also the Mark Strong one.)

  20. Griff: What did you read about her? I found the Washington Post article
    “In ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ she’s the hero; in real life, CIA agent’s career is more complicated,” but the only dirt it had was that she sent an angry email because people she felt obstructed her were getting an award.

  21. Yeah, I think Martini does a great job of explaining the problems people seem to have with the film and its depiction of torture. It’s not that the movie doesn’t come right out and state that it’s wrong, it’s that the movie supposedly suggests that torture was a necessity for finding Bin Laden, which has been declared false by a number of people with access to top secret information from both sides of the political aisle. Of course, this objection might very well be wrong. I haven’t seen the movie (although, I really want to), but I’m curious to see if the argument has any merit.

    I’ve also heard a slightly different argument that’s less about the movie and more about the reviews of the movie. Someone pointed towards reviews of the movie that claim it promotes torture and then go on to praise it as a work of art. The critic then claimed that the reviews of the film shouldn’t both laud the film’s artistry and denounce its ethics. I guess the idea is that if a movie has an unethical stance, then it’s a failure as a work of art. I can only get behind this argument to a certain extent. There are movies where the politics were so egregious that I just couldn’t look past them, even if they were well made (Gone with the Wind, for example). But there are other movies where I can, for whatever reason, enjoy them even if their politics don’t line up with mine. I certainly don’t think we need a film to match up with our own ideology perfectly in order to enjoy it or think that it is well done.

  22. Bob, Radiant, thanks. My movie buddy responded to my email… from Dubai. So it looks like the alone option might have to be considered. Uggh.

  23. I used to dislike going to movies by myself, but over the years I’ve gotten into the habit, and now I kind of like going by myself. There’s nothing worse than going to a movie that you like but others show obvious disdain for. The only downside is that this means I’m one more step away from living alone in a shack like Ted Kaczynski.

  24. Vern- A Daily Mail article I read (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2247299/Zero-Dark-Thirty-The-CIA-spy-designer-heels-caught-Bin-Laden–wept-body.html) says that she was all for blowing up the compound with a drone strike, despite the fact they knew there were woman and children living there and they weren’t 100 percent sure Bin Laden was. It’s The Daily Mail though so I dunno…

  25. Did you mean me, Vern? It sounded like Maya was based on someone named Alfreda Bikowsky but after reading some more it sounds like the character’s probably a composite, so that’s cool.

  26. The original Paul

    January 10th, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    …And it’s still not out over here for weeks, as far as I know. I haven’t seen a single trailer of this movie.

    Seriously, FUCK Hollywood distributors.

  27. Gonna try to see this tomorrow. Coulda seen it a couple weeks ago, and I abstained, due to a bout of self-righteousness & a manly-patriotic form of nerd-rage. Coulda seen it tonight, but I pulled a Baraka and bitched out due to lonelinessitude (though I normally love going to the movies alone).

    Trying not to make everything about me me me, I know it’s annoying & arrogant when I babble like this on Vern’s web sight, so I apologize but I have to say I have a, um, complicated movie-watching relationship with Kathryn Bigelow, badass filmatist, average/flawed film director, interesting art director, underrated comedy director (I chuckle immediately every time POINT BREAK pops up in my memory.), overrated opportunist du jour (along with Mark Boal).

    That’d all be fine if it was just movie-watching, but now her last 2 projects (and Boal’s) have intersected with subject matter that I happen to have just a bit of a personal stake in, from an understanding earned & developed in settings that are decidedly *not* action cinema (shown in safe, air conditioned movie theatres and discussed by millions of civilians on their laptops within safe, air conditioned offices & living rooms) or the bizarre milieu of fictional drama dressed up as docu-realism thrillers.

    I don’t know, maybe it’s like how Vern didn’t like CHRONICLE or that LESLIE VERNON fake documentary-horror thing. Like, we have certain areas of [partial] expertise & hands-on experience, certain modes in which a large part of our lives is defined, subjects that occupy our daily thinking, obsessions & professions we live & breathe everyday, and then when we see some outsider or poseur (no matter how skilled he/she may be) try to make a movie depiction of that thing, and his/her depiction doesn’t conform with our very rich understanding of the thing depicted, well, that upsets us. And it upsets us further when we can’t articulate the fount of our disgust, our dismissiveness in the face of so much praise for that thing.

    (Hopefully the CIA redhead character will somehow reflect this obsession I mention, and in a useful, rewarding fashion. For real, I want to give it a chance and enjoy this thing.)

    So anyway, now there’s An Important Film about a major historical event
    (Operation Neptune Spear just happened recently enough, by the way, that, uh, you could easily get firsthand accounts from a multitude of sources, sources that, uh, are *not* a hyped up fictional film, but oh well let’s not let that stop everyone from making this movie *the* definitive account, sigh.),
    and it’s getting lavish praise from every civilian with a keyboard, and I remember where I was when this event happened (wrote an account of that awesome, surreal hour of my life somewhere here back in May 2011) and during the lead-up to the event, an event that, frankly, kind of negated as much as it justified so much of what I tried to do for most of 2006 through 2011, and I gotta participate in the hoopla of reacting to my watching the goofy idiot guy from Parks & Recreation act as a SEAL performing SSE (sensitive site exploitation) in movie-Abbottabad after movie-Ace of Spades gets shot in the face by some other movie-SEAL.

    I hope it’s a great movie. I really do. I can’t say I’m entering this thing with tabula rasa, though. Hell, at the very least this movie is special, it *must* be a worthy “event movie,” b/c I very rarely allow myself to post anything about a new movie I’ve yet to see.


    Oh, and to defend this movie on a semantic-pedantic point: it’s not “Hollywood.” I understand it’s been made independently, so, though it does have “Hollywood” stars pretending to be real life DoD/CIA badasses, let’s not use that word “Hollywood” too much here in any complaints.


    While the *distributors* are Hollywoodites, the *financiers* & producers of ZERO DARK THIRTY are good people. We should continue to support them.

  28. Anyone here other than Franchise Fred might have mixed feelings about that “TERMINATOR 5 (????)” blurb on that IMDB link, though.

  29. Mode7 – That’s in the movie.

    heimp – sorry for mixing you up with Griff. I guess all cartoon avatars look the same to me.

  30. “The debate’s about whether or how much the movie condones torture.”

    I love this movie from beginning to end………. BUT…….. the torture thing. And just to clarify the situation, whether or how much the movie condones torture is a secondary issue. The primary issue is the fact that the movie shows that the CIA found out about bin Laden’s courier by torturing some dude. According to people who have access to the classified files, we got that information through traditional interrogation methods (talking, asking questions, acting friendly, etc.) and/or other traditional police work. This is the lead that led CIA investigators to finding bin Laden. Without it, it’s possible we may have never found him.

    I think this plot point is in the movie more for plot expediency than because of any desire on the filmmakers’ parts to support torture as a policy. I mean, they definitely had to include scenes of torture in this film just because of how integral that was in our response to the attacks on 9/11, and it makes sense from a story point of view to have that lead into the next part of the investigation. Nevertheless, it’s still a problem that they screwed up such an important historical point. It doesn’t ruin the movie for me, but it’s a pretty big asterisk when I recommend this movie to other people.

  31. All that being said, this still might be my choice for film of the year. It’s that damn good.

  32. RJ, correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the movie show them questioning the various detainees about the courier, but never actually getting anywhere until years later when the other woman is going through the files and makes the connection of which one the courier is? Did they specifically learn of the existence of the courier from the torture? If so I missed or forgot about it. Do you remember which scene it was?

  33. I was in the USMC and the US Army. It pisses me off when people who have NEVER served and have NEVER been on the sharp end of the spear have the balls to pontificate about how military operations should be conducted. Most people enjoy the benefits of life because someone else went out and risked theirs. This type of behavior never happened when we had a draft because most men had been there and done that to at least some degree.

  34. Yeah, they learned about the courier from that first guy they were torturing. When they cut to years later and they take him out to brunch and convince him that he already broke under torture.

    And please correct me if I have my facts wrong on this. It’s been a month since I saw the movie, so some of the details are fuzzy.

  35. RJ: The point isn’t that he was tortured into revealing valuable information. The point is that the torture didn’t work, but using subtle and intelligent interrogation techniques, and treating the guy like a human being, DID. You’re supposed to contrast the two approaches and recognize which one was more effective. (At least, I THINK you are. I can’t really speak for Boal and Bigelow, but I’m with Vern: it would make no sense for these people to turn around and become propagandists for the worst elements of the American intelligence community.)

  36. @CaptainTass — the fact that the rest of us benefit (or don’t, if things go wrong) from the military’s actions are the precise reason why we can, do, and *should* comment. It can be frustrating to hear poorly informed pontificating from schlubs with no clue about how the job works, but it’s all part of being members of a free society. I agree, though, that responsible members of society educate themselves before opening their mouths to opine — you gotta check yourself before you wreck yourself, after all.

    And Vern, I think you are way off about “Zero Duck Thirty.” Clearly, that is meant to be the title of a Howard the Duck reboot.

  37. CaptainTass, it’s the people that doesn’t serve that make all the right decisions in this world. The military is just a tool that they use when diplomacy hasn’t worked. The military aren’t here to think or make decisions. At all. That has been tried with very poor results all over the globe. So as long as you live in a democracy you just have to endure all those pesky civilians that haven’t been on the sharp end of the spear (just how old are you, man?).

  38. Even if the specific piece of evidence that leads them to the courier was already in the database, the movie shows that the only reason they were interested in him in the first place was due to other evidence collected from other detainees that were tortured. I don’t see how there’s any way around it. Although obviously my memory is kinda hazy.

    And by the way, even if it did happen EXACTLY as depicted in the movie, I think people would still argue that Bin Laden’s capture wasn’t a direct result of water-boarding. “Direct” being a pretty important qualifier here. The point is that a lot of information was gathered from detainees using torture during the Bush years, and this information became part of an extremely complicated web of evidence that is still being used today. I don’t think anyone can say with any certainty that Bin Laden would definitely still have been found without the use of information somewhere down the chain that was gathered using torture.

  39. JD – If water-boarding people didn’t work, they wouldn’t have been going it for all those years. I’m not at all saying that they should have been doing it but I think its kinda naive to believe that nothing useful was ever learned this way.

  40. going = doing. I think I had a stroke or something recently, my posts have been gibberish for the last couple of days.

  41. The USA must be the only democracy on earth right now that actually has a discussion about torture going on. There’s only one side to torture; It’s wrong.

  42. So is war pegsman, I suppose sometimes it’s just better than the alternative. Also, I don’t think it’s fair to single out the US, there’s no doubt plenty of information floating around European intelligence agency’s that was obtained the same way. Maybe the Americans did the dirty work but if it’s information our guys are using then we’re just as guilty, in my opinion.

  43. This is my number 1 movie of the year for preciously what’s going on here; it brings up very important questions, questions that can be soul-searching at times, questions that are difficult to answer. It makes us question but doesn’t give us answers, it respects us enough to come up with them ourselves – to debate them – to move forward with them. Certain movies should have a clear message, a bias – this isn’t one of them. It would be easy to come up with a movie like this with either a “pro-rah rah America” message or a message of “we should’ve never gotten involved in Afghanistan, torture is terrible…etc”. But it’s more difficult to make a film, or piece of writing, that remains non-biased and probes us.

    That being said; you can read the torture issue a myriad of ways in the film.
    *my opinion*
    Yes we tortured the fuck out of dudes and that is something we should not do – even if it slightly works – in order to keep moral integrity.

    The information about the courier came only after treating that detainee like a human being. Taking him outside, feeding him, and talking with him. Yes we lied to him, but deception isn’t a moral outrage, torture is. It could be said that the previous torture prompted this break but that raises another question, an important one; a question that is much deeper. If torture works 2% of the time – and if that 2% led to this break – are we ok with that? Are we, as a country, content with getting a sliver of information after performing such atrocities?

    That is something a lot of the hate reviews seem to miss, that it’s not pro-torture because it shows us that it might work but rather the big question of “are you ok with that?”. The TV show “24” showed torture as a sensationalist and exciting means of interrogation, “Zero Dark Thirty” makes us incredibly uncomfortable with it and thus goes deeper.

    This question is brought up again in the film in a different form – “Was it even worth it in the end?”, Yes Bin Laden was a monster, yes he was responsible for the deaths of over 3,000 people in our country and scores in others. But, at the time of his death, was Bin Laden really as powerful as he once was? Shouldn’t we have focused our intentions on more pressing issues? And what about the kids at the compound, won’t it make them more prone to hate the US and become lil Bin Ladens themselves? I don’t have an answer to that but I’ve thought about it before seeing the film and a lot after.

    I’m grew-up in NYC and the scars of 9/11 still are there. I know people who lost family and friends that day. I see the skyline and I’m still taken back by the absence of the twin towers. At the end of the film, when we did get the jackpot, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there was a cathartic moment for me (and many in the theater). NYC is a very liberal city but it takes it shit personal.

    I’ve wrestled with this movie for weeks after watching it, but in a great way. That is why this is a great film, that is why I think it’s the most important film of the year and the crowning achievement in Bigelow’s career.

  44. @Pegsman

    You’re pretty naive when it comes to stuff like this. Sorry man but it’s true. Yes a warrior-dictator isn’t the way to go and the military is often used as a tool by the government. But that being said, nobody knows better about how the military functions and how it should proceed more than the military. If you’ve watched the Wire or paid attention to local politics – the government also dictates how the police force should act, mostly to a detriment to the cause. NOt saying that the government officials shouldn’t have a say, even a health say, but it’s been shown throughout history the failures that occur when military intelligence is ignored by the government when it comes to military actions.

    Plus, you’re a fool if you think America is/was the only country that tortured – even amongst first-world countries. We were the ones that got caught with our hand in the cookie jar and resulted in these deep moral questions. Say England got caught, or Japan, or, hell, Sweden. There would be inner-discussions in any of those countries because a large populace is diverse. We have one of the largest in the world and currently hold hegemony, that’s why it’s become a much bigger issue.

  45. The original Paul

    January 11th, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Hank – that, unfortunately, is true. Going away from the torture point (because, obviously, I STILL have not seen this movie that every single person and their dog thinks is either good or fantastic), the Americans still have discussions on slavery. The British didn’t exactly invent slavery (going on for thousands of years before we came along) but we sure as heck pulled it, kicking and screaming, into the Industrial Age; with blackbirding, the Empire’s slave “colonies”, the Indian occupation… some of the shit that went on during this period would make the American deep South during the 1920s look positively liberal by comparison. And yet you don’t see many discussions from the UK on the subject.

    Anyway, back on subject, apparently ZDT is due to be released in Britain in the next two weeks. I say “apparently” because I still haven’t seen a single trailer or advertisement for it, anywhere. Again, FUCK Hollywood distributors. I just hope it’s as good as everybody says it is, because the weight of anticipation is just killing me right now. What the heck else is on? “Parental Guidance”?

  46. @Original Paul

    To be fair. This discussions about Slavery in the US revolve around grappling with our history. Nobody is seriously debating the merits of slavery but rather how to discuss it and how to proceed after. The vast vast majority of the population agree that Slavery was wrong and evil, but how to talk about the ramifications of it and who should be the ones to discuss it – that’s what’s continuously brought up. While I hate the comparison, it’s like Germany and the Holocaust. Still kind of a tricky subject there. England’s real issue was the colonial/imperial age of the nation – but they were always a shit-ton better than Spain in that matter.

  47. Hank – I totally agree that the questions of whether torture was helpful of not in finding Bin Laden is kind of missing the point. It’s more a question of how much of ourselves are we willing to give up to keep ourselves safe and destroy our enemies. Is it worth winning the war if it means becoming something we can’t live with.

    I sometimes think where a person stands on these issues largely comes down to how high they perceive the stakes to be – I’ve yet to meet the person that can honestly say they would never ever condone torture under ANY circumstances. There’s always some hypothetical scenario in which a reasonable person would absolutely say there is no other choice but to use torture, it just becomes a matter of where they draw that line. The problem with people like ourselves discussing things like this is that we aren’t privy to the information that would allow us to adequately measure the stakes – we really don’t have any idea how close we are to the shit hitting the fan and so it’s hard to judge just how necessary or not things like water-boarding actually are. All we can do it take a moral stand and hope that things really aren’t all that bad.

  48. Mode7 and Hank McCoy, I’m sorry but the USA is the only democratic country in the world where a politician can openly condone torture and not lose his job. So I’m singeling you out. Sorry. Sure, a lot of countries use torture, but they have the sense to keep quite about it. I’m not the naive one here if the two of you believe that torture have ever prevented or helped winning a war or conflict. And if you don’t believe me, this is something that people with a lot of experience, from torturers themselves to victims like John McCain, have told us again and again. Torture, wether it be rape, water boarding, electrical shocks or beatings, is a deterrent, a psychological weapon used to scare the enemy into thinking that this will happen to them if they ever get caught. It’s cheap and simple and horrible, and something that should never be accepted in a democracy.

    Hank; “nobody knows better about how the military functions and how it should proceed more than the military”. Are you kidding me? They fail constantly when they do their own thinking. A modern, professional army have no personal stake or moral involvement in the missions they carry out, and that’s why they get their asses kicked by armed civilians every single time they try to invade a foreign country (read: Vietnam, Afghanistan x 2, Irak etc).

  49. Mode7 — I can tell you that it’s not a matter of stakes to me. Torture is never justified, period. I don’t doubt there are times when it might be helpful, or times when it might be convenient, or times when we might wish we could do it. But you gotta say no, we’re not going there. There are other ways –better ways– which may be more difficult, but they’re worth doing the work for because we simply don’t want to live in a world where it’s considered even marginally OK to torture. Besides, if we do it we give everyone else in the world a free hand to do it to us, too. We can hardly be outraged by cruel treatment of our own people if we’re engaged in the same practices. Some things are just wrong, period, and torture is one of those things. Not sometimes, not when it’s easy, not just when the stakes are low. Always.

  50. 24 used torture as a plotdevice of sorts to let the main characters getting the information they needed. At first it was an edgy idea, but then it was just lazy writing from the show´s creators. Then it started up a whole controversy around the use of torture on 24. It´s an interesting show, even though how fuckin retarded the plotholes are,but it deals with some hard decisions in a heightened reality. Kind of a “What If?” scenario. Its not realistic in any way, but it deals with very real topics in the confines of entertainment.

    But watching that show, I got more of a sense, well if we can´t be better than that, then what´s the point?

  51. @Pegsman

    Other democratic countries weren’t put into the same situation as having photo’s leaked and having the world see what they were doing. I was never a supporter of Bush Jr, nor any of his policies. But you can’t saw that we’re the only country that has recently condoned torture when we’re the only democratic country that has had come into question. It’s a faulty way to argue. And I’m not an authority on the subject but again, you’re missing the point. The important question that the film brings up is, if torture works – even for just like 2% of the time and in that 2% we got a sliver of good info – was it worth the price of our integrity? our country’s soul? I said that I’m against torture and believe it not to work, but it’s still an important question to bring up since the world isn’t set up as black/white. But listen, it must be nice to be from a country that has no important multi-layered issues, where everyone is in a consensus of what the moral right is, and nothing can happen to disrupt the utopia.

    And for the record, most high ranking Generals were vehemently against going into Afghanistan, they saw what happened to the USSR there and were vocal in their opposition. But the government wanted it so they either ignored them or replaced them with Generals that would follow their orders. Same with Iraq. And for other examples, thankfully Hitler went against ALL his military advisers and invaded the Soviet Union and destroyed his army in the process. And your statement “A modern, professional army have no personal stake or moral involvement in the missions they carry out, and that’s why they get their asses kicked by armed civilians every single time they try to invade a foreign country” contradicts itself. You’re saying that the US army got their asses kicked by those forces because they had no personal or moral involvement but that would only happen if they aren’t making the decisions themselves. So which is it? And I’m not saying that the military should run themselves, invade/fight whoever, I’m saying that the military knows better than most about what’s a winnable war, what’s a better strategy, etc. Ya know, because of the years upon years of military and strategic training. Furthermore, who do you think cares more about the individual soldiers who are put into harms way – the guys who have fought themselves and know first-hand the danger or an arm-chair quarterback who has never been put into that situation. I personally believe that knowing the danger, knowing it at a core level, has an effect on your decision – usually for the better.

  52. Mode7: I was actually talking about THE MOVIE, and not waterboarding in general, and what happens in ZERO DARK THIRTY and what the film itself puts forth regarding waterboarding and torture. However, since you decided to declare I’m naive, I will now address what YOU said.

    Let me blunt. Waterboarding DOESN’T WORK. Torture DOESN’T WORK. The Bush era torture interrogation CIA black site programs DID NOT WORK. The point ZERO DARK THIRTY makes is that they did not work. Anybody who reveals valuable information while being tortured would have given up that same information anyway. If they don’t give up the info, eventually they’ll be reduced to incoherence or just say what they think their torturers want to hear to make it stop.

    To qoute RESERVOIR DOGS: “You hit this guy enough, he’ll tell ya he started the Great Chicago Fire, that doesn’t make it true!”

    Yes, they gained valuable info from detainees who had been tortured, or were threatened with torture. Again, anybody who gave them anything of value would have done so without being tortured. And the percentage of detainees who received harsh interrogations and gave up absolutely NOTHING so vastly outnumbers the tiny percentage who did that it reveals the absurdity of the entire program.

    As anybody who questions people for a living–any cop, any FBI agent, investigative reporter, documentary filmmaker–and they will tell you that mind games, repetition, persuasion, and compassion (feigned or otherwise) works far, far better then threats or actual harm. Especially if your subject is a fanatic brainwashed by years of propaganda, with a messianic desire to suffer and die for a cause, who fully expects to be tortured by the people he considers his archenemies.

  53. “Before the movie was shown to anybody there were Republicans trying to make it into a scandal…” “Of course, that’s not even remotely close to what this movie is…” To be fair, a movie should certainly be seen before its content is judged/critcized. Buuuut to be fairer, the specifics of those complaints had to do with the alleged level of access the film makers were granted to classified information by the admin., coupled with the fact that the film’s original planned release would’ve landed it in theaters just before the election. Given full context, the final shaping of the film’s story doesn’t diminish the validity of those concerns at the time they occured. Inversely, it’s a bit chuckle worthy that the series “24” is considered all but a Glenn Beck production by some liberals despite that “ultra right-wing” show putting 3 seasons in the can before depicting radical Islamic fundamentalists as the source and architects of a terror plot ( Oil-men turned out to be the moustache twirlers in season 2 ) or that not so much as a single one of protagonist Jack Bauer’s patented terrorists torture sessions ever veered into a monologue about second amendment rights, illegal immigration, or limited govt.

  54. Usually, it is not the muslims,or whatever etnicity, that is behind the large scheme in ANY season of 24.You could argue that season 4 was that, since the Arnold Vosloo character remained the big threat throughout the season. But that was on the whole an exception.

  55. Of course it wasn´t until the final two seasons when they actually started to deal with the ambiguity of using torture.

  56. I do think 24 needs some cred for presenting these extreme scenarios, which make you think; “Shit,what would I have done if I was in that situation?”. 24 is basically a big fucking morality play at its heart. It makes little sense logically as a whole, since a lot of the scenarios being represented are somewhat the same, but they do make you think at some level.

  57. “The information about the courier came only after treating that detainee like a human being. Taking him outside, feeding him, and talking with him. Yes we lied to him, but deception isn’t a moral outrage, torture is. It could be said that the previous torture prompted this break but that raises another question, an important one; a question that is much deeper.”

    I REALLY disagree that this is what the movie shows you.

    The talking with him/feeding with him only works BECAUSE they tortured him, according to the movie. He’s in a vulnerable position from being tortured, such that he a) doesn’t remember whether or not he confessed to them, as they claim, because he was sleep deprived, and b) he’s relieved that they’re treating him humanely IN CONTRAST to that they were torturing him earlier.

    It’s like good cop/bad cop. It doesn’t work if you just go in and are nice to somebody. The bad cop is there to push them into the good cop’s arms.

    I’m not saying this in order to discuss my own opinions on torture AT ALL. What I’m saying is: to suggest that the situation with the film’s first detainee demonstrates the efficacy of more humane methods vs torture is critically misleading! They torture him so much that he literally has no memory of what went on, and then use his torture-induced confusion to extract information. I imagine all the other detainees who confirmed the importance of the courier were tortured as well….

  58. As Vern has stressed, a major breakthrough w/r/t the courier lead occurs when the young woman sifts through the files and finds the photo. I was a bit confused on this point. They say that this datum got lost in the shuffle because, immediately post-9/11, all these other intelligence sources were trying to help us, we had more info than we could process, etc. She says the photo came from Saudi Intelligence, yeah?

    Well what’s Saudi Intelligence’s stance on torture? Or is does it not matter as far as the discussion because we’re only concerned with US ethics, and as far as we’re concerned if other people conduct enhanced interrogations and we benefit from the intelligence they derive, it’s fine because our hands our clean.

  59. Rogue – I see your point, and they are still investigating this alleged classified information breach. But what I’m trying to say is that if they were familiar with Kathryn Bigelow or just the history of this movie they would’ve known that obviously it wouldn’t be some kind of phoney rah-rah campaign advertisement bullshit. They didn’t know what the fuck they were talking about and anybody who did could predict the end result of the movie not being what they said it was.

    I feel the same about the presumably more left-leaning editorialist I linked to and similar articles, they may know politics but they got no clue about movies and are just making themselves look dumb. And we’re starting to also get this again from both sides of the political spectrum in the new attempts to curb fantasy violence in the superstitious belief that it has something to do with actual violence. You and I have politics as different as night and day but we should be able to agree that these dumb motherfuckers who don’t know shit about movies are out of their element and should go focus on their own interests instead of telling us what movies they would never watch anyway are too evil for us.

  60. Just saw it tonight. The idea waterboarding leads to leads is probably right. The idea torture leads to leads is better. Put the fucker in a box, make him shit his pants, beg for food, etc and it all starts to pile up. Why are we isolating waterboarding as it being this terrible method, when there are many methods equally inhumane but probably necessary? So that conversation continues to confuse me.

    As to the movie. The raid was epic, man. I don’t think that could have been executed at any higher level. It was tense, riveting, and I knew how it was going to go down the whole time. The procedural elements that preceeded it had something to do with the build up and the awesome feeling of vindication that we felt, but also as Vern pointed out, what follows is that feeling of total loss, like what now? This woman spent a decade of her life in pursuit of this guy and in one night it’s over. I think the film did a great job of communicating all these ideas visually. We see Jessica Chastain staring at that body bag, and we know exactly what’s going through her mind.

    Where I think this film excels is in the choice to cast a female lead, and to make her like one of the guys. There’s no indication of misogyny, not even passive aggressive misogyny. Not even from the prisoners! I would imagine a prisoner calling her all kinds of shit. But Boal and Bigelow decided against that, and for the better. She also stands in as a kind of representative for Americans who don’t buy into the violent aspects of this manhunt of the century. Her acceptance of torture doesn’t deny her the feeling of how awful she feels to be part of it. And I think as Americans we all feel that way. We feel it is necessary but we aren’t happy about it.

    Also, making her female gives the story a balance that wouldn’t be possible with a male lead. You have the incredibly macho-aggressive types who ultimately “SEAL” the deal, and then you have the mother of the operation, or to use her words, the “mother fucker” of the operation looking over everything and making sure it turns into this mature, ripe situation. In other words she lets the entire manhunt gestate properly. Without her leads would have been abandoned. Without her supervision, nobody would ever have found bin laden.

    These are just off the cuff thoughts. But I think there is something serious being talked about, even if it is just subtext and theme at play here.

    Good work Bigelow.

  61. JD- Let Me be blunt; Your entire post comes off as a bunch of things you’d like to believe presented as facts. Firstly I’ll say it again – if water-boarding didn’t work they wouldn’t have been doing it. Quite honestly I think it’s pretty goddamn cynical to argue otherwise, I mean why do you think they were doing it? For fun? Because they’re fucking morons? You honestly think that after probably tens of thousands of years of human beings being tortured for information by other human beings Obama came along and suddenly these guys realised that these techniques don’t work and never did? It isn’t a matter of whether it works or not – IT DOES, and as renfield explained a few posts up THE MOVIE ITSELF clearly shows that it does -the question is should we be doing it anyway.

    I sometimes think I think a lot more of Americans than a lot of Americans seem to. You seem to think that for eight years the US military/intelligence services were engaged in some kind of conspiracy – pretending water-boarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” were working for no other reason than to ensure they could carry on torturing people, stopping only because Obama came along and said “ok fun’s over guys, I know you’ve been having a blast but someone just told me this shit doesn’t work so knock it off”. Or is it closer to what I believe? – That these techniques totally do work but the US stopped using them BECAUSE IT’S BETTER THAN THAT, That Obama made a moral decision made all the more courageous because it means the US is slightly less safe because of it.

  62. Mode7, I don’t know how old you are, what your political leanings are or what news shows you watch, but if you’ve paid attention to the media for the last 5-6 years you KNOW that JD’s speaking the truth. You don’t want it to be true, but deep down I suspect you know it is. Torturers from all corners of the world, victims such as John McCain and professors in neurology have all said that the people being tortured just tells the torturer what he wants to hear and that’s that. Over the years they haven’t gotten ANY information worth a damn. Remember the guy they water boarded 230 times? He didn’t tell them anything! The reason they keep on doing it is just psychological warfare. The treath of physical pain and degredation scare the enemy to such lengths that they would rather take their own life than be taken captive. Are there morons involved? Sure. Is it a conspiracy? You bet. And as long as there are people out there who have blind faith in what they’re doing is right for the country, they will keep on doing it.

  63. …”Over the years they haven’t gotten ANY information worth a damn”

    Again, pegsman just like JD you’re presenting your (extremely unlikely) OPINIONS as fact. How in god’s name could you (or anyone) possibly verify the above statement? Your argument fails the first test – it is not logical.

    “…Torturers from all corners of the world, victims such as John McCain and professors in neurology have all said that the people being tortured just tells the torturer what he wants to hear and that’s that” Yeah well that’s kinda the point eh? I’m sure plenty of useless information is extracted from detainees using these methods but you just pretty much admitted that if the detainee DOES HAVE useful information, then he sure as shit isn’t keeping it to himself.

    And by the way, your “psychological warfare” argument makes no sense whatsoever. All torturing captives does is make the people who’s “hearts and minds” we’re trying to win over hate us, while also putting our own troops at risk by assuring that they can expect the same treatment if the’re taken prisoner – Not something anyone wants.

    FYI I’m 32 and if I were American would have voted for Obama twice, I don’t watch much TV News because I find most of it far too biased to be useful. I read a lot.

  64. I finally saw the film today. This post just looks at the issue of torture, since my feelings towards the entire movie are a little more complex. I had previously read a lot about whether or not the film justifies the use of torture or not, and going into the film I tried to ignore arguments on both sides (even though this is likely impossible). And, to be honest, I felt the film ultimately justified the use of torture, but, what’s worse, the film actively distorts how torture works in the real world. The use of torture can be refuted on at least two bases: 1) ethics and 2) efficacy. Personally, I believe that torture is wrong unequivocally in any real world situation. I am not a pacifist, and I believe in the possibility of a “just war.” But in order for a war to be just it not only must be the lesser evil of two alternatives, there also needs to be guidelines regarding what are acceptable and unacceptable in combat. In order for a war to be just, torture, then, must be off the table. Scholars of just war theory have noted that prohibitions against torture as a requisite for a just war go all the way back to the middle ages. This is somewhat depressing to think about, because it means that people born a thousand years ago were more morally enlightened than large portions of the American public.

    It’s completely fair to question the ethics of torture. What does it do to the person who is being tortured or the person who does the torturing? What does it do to a nation? These are good questions. They’re important questions. The problem with Zero Dark Thirty is that in several situations it misconstrues what we know about the efficacy of torture. There are three main interrogations in the first half of the film. In the first interrogation a man is tortured on several occasions. The protagonist Maya suggests that they use the fact that the prisoner is so disoriented from being tortured in order to convince him that he has already given up information. But they only get the information after sitting down the prisoner, feeding him some food, and treating him like a human being. This is an interesting grey area, but the film does remain here for long. During the second interrogation (where we see now torture), the prisoner gives up information to Maya freely, but only after clearly stating that he doesn’t want to be tortured again (which not only suggests that torture here was effective, but was also a clumsy bit of expository dialogue). In the final interrogation scene, a prisoner is locked up, tortured, and then given over to Maya so that she can get more info from him, which he gives up relatively easily.

    Each interrogation follows basically the same pattern. A prisoner is softened up by torture and then he gives up information thanks to Maya, who does not do any of the actual torturing. It’s the basic good cop/bad cop narrative we’ve seen a thousand times before. Unfortunately this just isn’t how torture works. In many situations, the best information was gotten before the prisoner was even tortured. A good example of this comes from the torture of Abu Zubaida (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2009/03/28/AR2009032802066.html). Zubaida was supposed to be a high level member of Al Qaeda. And the CIA had supposedly found out all sorts of terrorist plots and information from him after subjecting him to torture. These all turned out to be false. Zubaida was only loosely connected to Al Qaeda to begin with, and he was a relatively low man on the totem pole. He did give up some useful information, but that was before he was tortured. Once the CIA started Zubaida, he just started to tell them exactly what his interrogators wanted to hear. In the end, the CIA wasted time and energy chasing ghosts that they themselves created. This real world example breaks from the easy narrative that Bigelow has created about torture. What’s more, plenty of interrogators will tell you that the best way to get accurate information from a suspect is to create a rapport. I few years ago I got to hear Army interrogator Matthew Alexander speak on this subject. Here’s a link to an op-ed of his: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2008/11/28/AR2008112802242.html

    From my end, the first half of the film shows a failure of understanding and craft. Bigelow doesn’t seem to understand the more complicated and nuanced history of torture. What’s more, she’s regurgitating the same arguments and narratives we’ve seen in a million other movies that deal with torture and interrogation. As a craftsman (craftsperson?), she’s not able to really break from the images and stories that she has seen in other films. She doesn’t add anything new to the table on this topic, and it’s probably the most disappointing part of the film.

  65. So because this Zubaida guy gave his interrogators the run-around Bigelow must therefore be misinformed? I just don’t understand the logic. You can throw out a million and one instances of torture not working, it doesn’t mean that it didn’t work for those few instances depicted in the movie. What if it did happen EXACTLY as depicted? What was Bigelow supposed to do? Lie? Because what you’re asking for then IS propaganda.

  66. Mode7, I dunno what the hell country you’re from, but I don’t think you understand Americans very well.

    And you don’t know a damn thing about the reality of torture, or just how evil the Bush Administration got after September 11th.

    What happened in 2011 should have happened in 2002 or so. Everything got delayed for years because of the malice and incompetence of the initial response, and the invasion of Iraq. That’s part of the point that ZERO DARK THIRTY is trying to make: they wasted billions of dollars and years of effort kidnapping and torturing people, instead of pursuing leads with good intelligence work.

    People have been torturing each other for centuries, yes. Can I remind you WHY? In order to inflict pain on each other. The Enhanced-Interrogation programs were like the Spanish Inquisition. The Inquisition wasn’t truly concerned with Jews and heretics making sincere conversions to Christianity; they just wanted to hurt and humiliate them. Same thing after 9/11–once my country’s authorities had gotten a lot of Muslims and Middle-East Nationals (many of whom had only the barest, most peripheral connections to terrorism) completely under their control, it was payback time.

  67. RoyBatty, the guy who says he doesn’t want to be tortured again is not the same guy we see getting waterboarded.

    I thought the line was meant as an indictment: here was someone finally naming what we’ve been watching the CIA do to people throughout the film explicitly as “torture”. Not “enhanced interrogation”, not “detainee questioning”, not “focused inquiry”, but torture. And again, he cooperates once the torture stops. He didn’t give them anything while he was being tortured; the torture actually worked against them.

  68. I think you’re selling your fellow Americans short JD, I really do. The “evil” people you’re accusing of “malice and incompetence” were (and still are, it ain’t like all these guys got fired when Obama took over) FUCKING PROFESSIONALS and they deserve a little more respect. What I think about Americans is that it’s a shame you guys allowed yourselves to be brainwashed by whichever news network it is you go to to have all your prejudices about the other guys (libs/dems… whatever) confirmed and re-enforced. It’s called confirmation bias – I believe it was referenced in the movie. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

    Also, your take on the movie verges on tragic. The movie explicitly shows torture as an effective means of extracting information from detainees, there is no way around it. So I’m afraid you’re either gonna have to alter your worldview slightly or call Kathryn Bigelow out as a shameless propagandist – you can’t have it both ways.

  69. The original Paul

    January 12th, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    …So this movie is coming out on JANUARY 25th in the UK. And not, as far as I know, in any of the multiplexes near me. In case I haven’t made this point clear enough the last two times I’ve said it, FUCK Hollywood distributors.

    Until I can actually weigh in on the ZDT discussion though, let me point out for those bringing up “24”, that 1) the “main villains” of the show 24 have been, in order: American mercenaries, Eastern Europeans, a German spy-turned-American traitor, more American mercenaries, a terrorist cell of American-born mulslims, American oil barons, Mexican drug cartels, a rogue British spy, more muslims of various denominations, corrupt American government interests, Chinese death squads working alongside American mercenaries, an African warlord working with an American PMC, a middle-Eastern anti-peace initiative, and a Russian military death squad.

    I draw two conclusions from that barrage of villainy: that the Americans have their fingers in every pie, and that there are not nearly enough British villains on “24”.

    Regarding the whole torture issue though, the main story arc of Season 7 was that of a FBI agent who’s forced to work with Bauer and who constantly has to go through moral decisions that leave her questioning just how far is too far, and how it’s affecting her personally. If this was 24’s response to the whole “torture” debate, it was a pretty effective one, as Season 7 was easily in the top three seasons in terms of quality IMO.

  70. Dude, change your name to Moron7.

    “Fucking professionals who deserve a little more respect”….Jesus H. Christ. Yeah, well, the overseers on the slave plantations were pros too. I don’t respect them either.

  71. Ahhh the lame screen-name pun, an internet classic. I gotta give you points for efficiency though – in one post you’ve managed to out yourself as someone not worth debating, and also illustrate exactly what I was talking about. Well done.

  72. Mode, as you know from the review I don’t agree that the movie “explicitly shows torture as an effective means of extracting information,” but even if it does, do you honestly feel Bigelow and Boal mean to endorse what the characters are doing? If so, why did they make those scenes so long and painful, and why is the ending a bummer instead of a “phew, it was all worth it, let’s all high five each other and listen to Basil Pouledoris themes!” And why would they make a movie with that message and then back down and claim that the movie doesn’t mean that? Are you calling Kathryn Bigelow a sissy?

  73. I’ve heard a number of people whose opinion I respect come firmly down on the side of “torture does NOT produce critical information in the film”, so either I really misunderstood how the plot unfolded in the film or, well, you guys did.

    That said:

    The bigger picture is that it doesn’t REALLY make the difference in terms of what moral stance the film might be taking. As Vern points out, just because you see something HAPPEN in a film doesn’t mean the film is saying “… and this is the way it SHOULD be.”

    Do the ends justify the means? I mean, let’s say person X is a murderer. He’s killed before and he’ll kill again. If you get the state to execute him, then he you guarantee he won’t be able to kill any more people. As liberals, we realize this, and are still AGAINST CAPITAL PUNISHMENT, because of a broader philosophy about the nature of government’s power/responsibility etc.

    Sorry for raising my voice.

  74. A couple points further:

    1) Maya is an interesting character. She’s unobtrusive at first, and by the end is furiously scribbling digits on the boss’ window. She begins invoking this uncomfortable rhetoric about how she’s fated or destined to catch bin Ladin. I can’t remember the exact line, “I was spared so that I could….” she says. Or something. She turns into a bit of a zealot, is what I’m getting at. My partially baked theory is that the film shows you how a catastrophe like 9/11 leads to this sort of obsessive, unbendable will (and by extension makes you wonder what sort of catastrophes were underwent by the terrorists to fixate them in their own zealotrous perspectives). Maya’s an intelligent, rational person but she gets caught up in it anyway. And like bin Ladin is forever on Maya’s list, the movie points out that she’s forever on the terrorists’ list and they’re trying to take her out as well. So it points out various parallels, etc.

    2) Did anybody recognize her friend as the scintillating Elizabeth from the mid-90’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE miniseries??


    Anyway, perhaps my least favorite scene in the film is the one where she’s waiting to meet the possible informant. It felt to me like the film was downright gleeful in proving her wrong. She’s basically gloating to her colleagues about how awesome she is for securing a meet with this hugely important, high-profile guy. So you instantly have your warning-signals flaring. And then when she starts asking them to disregard protocol and shit, it becomes just too painfully obvious what’s gonna happen. It all seemed uncharacteristically manipulative to me, and cruel to her character

  75. In addition of Maya and Dan tricking the guy after he’s dazed and confused from the torture, there were a few scenes where detainees confirm Maya’s intelligence because they said they didn’t want to be tortured again. It’s a roundabout way of hinting that, yes, sometimes torture can work and was used to get there. It’s a messy subject with no clear answers.

    Also, Maya was in the Mark Owen’s book, NO EASY DAY. Like in the movie, she was the driving force of getting the ball rolling and being the “miss 100%”. She indeed cried after identifying the body. So while Maya is probably a composite character in parts, she has a real-life female counterpart at least in the later years of the hunt. She was called Jen in the book.

  76. The villains may have been from all over the political spectre in 24, but I remember that they showed their political colors pretty clearly in season 3, when it was announced that the Michael Moore type guy William Devane’s (I forget his character’s name) son was working for was a traitor AND that Devane gladly let his son be tortured to find out what he had told him. Please correct me if I remember this wrong. But the first one is a fact, and if that’s not Glenn Beck television, I don’t know what is.

  77. The original Paul

    January 13th, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Renfield – yeah, Jennifer Ehle is very well-known, over here at least, although probably more for television parts like “Pride and Prejudice” and “Melissa” than for her film work. I did perk up when seeing her name on the credits as she’s 1) a great actress, and 2) still blinkin’ gorgeous.

    Pegsman – I don’t remember that character, to be honest… do you mean James Heller’s son from Season 4?

  78. Vern- I don’t see how showing that torture was useful in this case is tantamount to endorsing it. I dunno about you but my stance against torture isn’t based on how useful or not it is – I’m against it* DESPITE it’s usefulness because it’s an immoral thing to do. If I had to guess I’d say that Bigelow and Boal feel the same way. I apologize if some of my posts came off as kinda snotty yesterday but I just honestly don’t see how anyone could watch the movie and claim that nothing of value was learned from torturing these guys. Not only that but to assert that the first detainee started talking because he was “treated humanely” (as someone said), is not only a baffling way to read that scene but also I think a wilfully naive appraisal of the kind of guy’s we’re dealing with here. This is Al Qaeda (or Al Qaeda sympathisers) we’re talking about, the kinds of people that think putting a bullet in your own daughters head because you caught her learning how to read is a reasonable thing to do. I don’t think a cup of tea and a friendly word is gonna do the trick.

    *Except in that million-to-one scenario that has probably never happened, in which torturing one guy will save thousands of lives. The “24” scenario, I suppose you could call it.

  79. JD – Reasonable people can disagree as to whether the film fully endorses torture, but I got the sense that the film suggests it’s a necessary evil when the truth is more complex. One thing I should have mentioned is that towards the end of the film, after the White House representatives tell Maya’s CIA boss to get more evidence, he retorts that finding more evidence will be difficult because the torture program has been shut down. In the world of the film, the chief means to obtain information is to torture. I’m not saying that Bigelow is a propagandist or anything like that. I just think there’s a common narrative that torture may be evil, but it’s also highly effective when that’s just not the case.

    For me, the torture stuff really hindered the first half of the film. But the second half was fantastic. I think Vern makes a good point that the film doesn’t allow the audience catharsis at the end. The final raid is tense, but when they finally do kill Bin Laden, the movie makes it difficult to cheer. It almost seems anti-climactic. While watching the movie there were a couple of guys a row or two in front of me who were complete “bros.” They talked during parts of the movie and were obviously looking forward to some vicarious “kick ass” patriotism. When the CIA boss gave his speech about finding people to kill, one of these guys gave out a little “yeah!” They also commented on all of the cool military gear. (They may have affected my enjoyment of the film to some extent as well). But the final raid was a complete buzzkill for these guys. It’s really hard to cheer when you see people kill unarmed individuals (whether or not those killings are justified), especially when one happens to be a woman. And the sound of crying women and children don’t help either. Where they were previously ready to cheer at anything, they were all of a sudden pretty subdued, and they ended up packing up a little early and shuffling out of the theater. A few people tried to clap for the film at the end, but it just sort of fizzled out. I think this mixed, confused reaction is what Bigelow was going for, but I think she was far more successful in the second half of the film than in the first half.

    Mode 7 – It looks like my links don’t work, but if you google Matthew Alexander and Washington Post you can find an op-ed where he argues that not only is torture wrong, it’s also less effective. Plenty of people have noted this. Here’s another link (if it works) about a Senate investigation that found torture to be ineffective: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/report-finds-harsh-cia-interrogations-ineffective/2012/12/13/a9da510a-455b-11e2-9648-a2c323a991d6_story.html

    You mentioned confirmation bias earlier. Well, it’s my understanding that confirmation bias is one of the problems with torture. A prisoner is going to tell you exactly what he thinks you want to hear in order make the torture stop. This is what happened to Zubaida. He lied not because he wanted to give the CIA the run around. He lied because he thought that is what the CIA wanted to hear. He reinforced their preconceived biases.

    It’s not that we found Bin Laden because we temporarily decided to torture. In fact, it is likely that it took us longer to find Bin Laden because we decided to use torture. People torture for all kinds of reasons. The mistaken belief that it’s the best way of getting information is only one of those reasons. People torture in order to punish others or for revenge. My guess is that these latter two reasons are also why the CIA decided to use torture. On some level they wanted revenge for 9/11 and decided to get it by inflicting punishment on those suspected of working with Al Qaeda.

  80. renfield and HT— Here’s an article you guys will likely find interesting:
    Peter Bergen’s book Manhunt is a must-read if you want a full & accurate account of the intelligence gathering that lead to Bin Laden’s demise. It’s 359 pages long and a fairly easy read.

    My big issue with the film was not the fact that the character of Maya/Jen/Rebecca (the last pseudonym is from Bergen’s book) is the focal point; it’s that her role in the hunt for and eventual death of Bin Laden is so exaggerated. Plus it portays her as a sort of lone wolf who had to drag everyone else in her wake to make the raid happen, which is patently false.

    Speaking of which, the raid and its outcome is the one aspect of this film that Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal get completely right. If one can believe Mark Owen’s book No Easy Day and its account of the raid (and since he was actually present, there is little reason to doubt him)… the depiction of the raid you see onscreen is nearly identical to the actual raid, although the timeframe is slightly compressed.

    So, at bottom ZDT is IMO 3/4 fractured fact and 1/4 hard fact. Good, but just not good *enough*.

  81. Paul, you’re right, it was season 4.

  82. I still found the handheld camera distracting. I know it was relatively restrained, but every time the camera bobs I go “Oh, that’s a cameraman.”

  83. Just going to have to wait to see this one because I live in Missouri and don’t want to see the movie surrounded by morons like Mode7 and the Starship Troopers guy who thinks I’m not allowed opinions unless I volunteer to be a killing tool for the government.

    24 was jingoistic garbage that portrayed a digusting monster as a noble hero who was never wrong in a crazy fantasy land version of america and ruined the brains of who knows how many people who can’t tell reality from fiction:

  84. Funny how I’m the moron yet it’s people that disagree with me that feel the need to resort to childish name calling.

  85. By the way, I’ve never even seen 24.

  86. Have you guys seen HOMELAND? It shares some DNA with 24 (creator? writers? dunno). I thought it was a pretty ridiculous show. I hesitate to say idiotic because I watched both seasons and you don’t want to admit you invested so much of your time into something dumb, but damn if 0D30 doesn’t shit all over it. Maya makes Claire Danes’ character look like a fekkin cartoon.

  87. I left that gig after 4 episodes. Reminded me too much of some of the worst aspects of 24.

  88. I never said you did see 24, though you’d probably love it because you already live in the imaginary gi joe version of the world it presents with terrorists with elaborate plans and resources hiding behind every potted plant. And the only name I called you was Mode7, which is your name. As a bonus I applied the description of moron to your name. Don’t blame me, I’m not the one who unironically typed out the sentence “if water-boarding didn’t work they wouldn’t have been doing it.”

  89. renfield— I’ve watched it. On the strength of whatever awards it was receiving last year, I found & bought the DVD set of Season 1 on eBay for about $21. I got 3-4 episodes into it and bailed. Very tepid stuff, and they (the show’s writers) took what would’ve been a 3-4 episode arc on 24 and fleshed it out to an entire season. Having seen none of Season 2 or beyond, I can’t say whether the writers boxed themselves in by doing this.

    However, I must disagree with you about Jessica Chastain. The impression I get is that (figuratively speaking) she wears the same actress perfume that Claire Danes does: Eau De Soccer Mom. IMO, you have to at least BE a little hard-nosed in order to effectively PLAY hard-nosed. Neither one of them seem to have that.

  90. “…the only name I called you was Mode7, which is your name. As a bonus I applied the description of moron to your name” – That may be the most ridiculously pedantic backtracking I have ever seen. Are you serious?!

    Here is a video of Leon Panetta, one of the guys people keep pointing to as having said that torture wasn’t useful in this case: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=pCdAqPCc3dw Does it sound to you like he’s saying torture doesn’t ever work? Or even that it definitely wasn’t useful in this case (as people keep saying)? If you answer yes to either of these questions, everybody will know you are either a liar or deluded.

    Also, as a bonus; here is a quote from celebrated journalist/intellectual/public speaker/hero to many – The late Christopher Hithens. – “The interrogators would hardly have had time to ask me any questions, and I knew that I would quite readily have agreed to supply any answer.” The quote is taken from an article he wrote* after allowing himself to be subjected to water-boarding for journalistic, research-type purposes (and also that’s just how he rolled).

    I don’t know why I keep having to repeat this, but one more time: I’m not saying that torture is a good idea, or that it’s useful 100 percent (or even .1 percent) of the time, what I’m saying is that SOMETIMES IT IS, and that it’s reasonable to assume that Bigelow and Boal did their research and in THIS CASE they found that it was. WHY WOULD THEY LIE?

    I really think people should examine their motives here. I’m starting to think the only reason people don’t want to believe this stuff is because it’d mean giving some tiny sliver of credit to the Bush administration for implementing policies which did indeed help in the tracking down of Bin Laden. Well I’m sorry about that but the truth doesn’t give a fuck about your personal politics – it is what it is. If you can’t accept that then you are part of the problem and no better than those dickheads on the other side whining about Obama’s birth certificate.


  91. Mode7, I think the question now is why on earth you so badly want torture to work?

  92. How about you come at me with an actual argument rather than bullshit ad hominem innuendo? I’ll take your comment as an admission that you don’t actually have anything.

  93. By the way, I’d have been done with this thread like ten posts ago if people didn’t keep calling me a moron.

  94. Actually, fuck it; I’m gonna answer you question. Why on earth do I so badly want torture to work? – Because I’d rather believe that than believe the US had so many of its best and brightest engaged in a conspiracy of sadism for eight fucking years, torturing people for no other reason than to cause pain and suffering to other human beings (also because it happens to be true). So I’ll throw the question back at you: Why do you so badly want to believe that torture doesn’t work?

  95. Parker, please don’t be calling anybody a moron. Everybody else calm down. I am not your friend. I am going to break you. etc.

  96. I like HOMELAND a lot. The first season balanced a pretty difficult tightrope of credibility, and I think it pulled it off. The second season didn’t manage it as well, but it was carried through by great performances and reasonably complex characters. Plus I liked that Brody was exposed within the first couple of episodes. I wasn’t expecting that.

    It’s also the kind of show that’s impossible to sustain over several seasons without losing it’s “realistic” tone, but it’s on Showtime which means they are going to ride that fucker into the ground.

    Also, while the torture debate rages on here, can we at least appreciate that both sides agree that it is unambiguously wrong? Nobody here is saying that it’s a “necessary evil”, which I like.

  97. That blurb about Scalia is just beyond belief!

  98. OK I’ll stop now, I think I made my point (ad nauseum) and I realise I’m probably testing everybody’s patience. I didn’t mean to give anyone the impression that I’m irate or anything – I assure you that I’m not. I’ll try and use less “fucks” in future and I promise I’ll go to the trouble of using the bold tags for emphasis instead of ALLCAPS.

  99. Sorry Vern, didn’t mean to come in a shit on the floor of your house. I’m a primitive and emotional man.

  100. Mode7, I would still like to answer your question. You say you choose to believe. But I’m afraid that I’ve lost faith completely in the system. I’m old enough to have been around during the cold war, witnessing first hand how every lie they told us being picked apart when the iron curtain fell. So when they decided to replace the communists with muslims, using the same damn rethoric all over again, I realized that it is just a game to these people. Torture might not be the biggest problem we have, but it’s a part of the lie and something we have to talk about to be able to clean up the mess.

  101. I’m sure HOMELAND will have the exact same trajectory as 24 did. Both shows have the same producers.

    Remember when in the first season 24 was a fairly grounded thriller revolving around a kidnapped daughter and a political assassination? But in the later seasons it devolved into multiple loose nukes, bioweapons, evil Muslims, evil Russians, evil corporate Americans, traitors everywhere, Robocop cameos, and Jack Bauer killing more people than cholera.

    The second season of HOMELAND already has the same symptoms. A super resourceful terrorist organization assassinates the Vice President using the Internet! Or a fully armed CIA taskforce gets wiped out by armed-to-the-teeth Muslim terrorist cell on the American soil. Or how the meticulous manhunt culminates into a bad slasher flick where the Bin Laden surrogate chases the lead girl down dark tunnels like Jason Vorhees.

    And then there’s of course the required season capping twist with the shocking bombing. 24 also did plenty of those, and somehow still ended up resetting things at the start of a new season. Like, you know, HOMELAND and its electro-shock therapy ending for season 1 and its resolution.

    So I don’t have much faith in the longevity of HOMELAND. Like 24, it still may end up being fun popcorn entertainment where you just have to see how far off the rails it goes this time. But a grounded, intelligent commentary on War on Terror? Not a chance. It already shows signs of being far too stupid show for that.

    But I’m still going to watch it.

  102. I thought SLEEPER CELL was a pretty good show. Anyone else saw that? I only watched the first season,but it was fairly grounded from what I remebered.

  103. “The important question that the film brings up is, if torture works – even for just like 2% of the time and in that 2% we got a sliver of good info – was it worth the price of our integrity?”


    If it works 2% of the time, that means that 98% of the time you are getting garbage. Wrong intel. And you can’t know which is which. So eventually you are using 98% of your intelligence resources chasing leads that only exist in imaginations of tortured people. This doesn’t sound particularly effective.

    It’s been rather well studied, that people will say anything when they are tortured. Which makes torture a rather ineffective method of gathering intel.

    “Actually, fuck it; I’m gonna answer you question. Why on earth do I so badly want torture to work? – Because I’d rather believe that than believe the US had so many of its best and brightest engaged in a conspiracy of sadism for eight fucking years, torturing people for no other reason than to cause pain and suffering to other human beings (also because it happens to be true).”.


    I find the premise rather naive. USA has massive military and massive intelligence agencies. There are bound to be people, and methods, that are not working very well. There is bound to be stupidity, prejudices, confirmations biases, and ineffective working methods. Taking into account how enormously complex the military and intelligence agencies are, and how many people work in them, this is all unavoidable.

    Hell, the whole Iraq war a massive screw-up on many levels, both as an intelligence and military operation. Remember, the whole official reason for going to war with Iraq was *bad intel, which turned out to be completely incorrect*. The American government has admitted this.

    And the 10+ year war has had multiple, serious screw-ups. The biggest of which happened right after invasion, when Bush and Rumsfield decided to disband the Iraqi army and dissolve the whole Baath party, from top to bottom. This led to the complete breakdown of the Iraqi infrastructure, and a massive power vacuum. Which led to 10 years of war, and a country still in total chaos.

    That was all avoidable, you see, if smart people were Colin Powell were listened to. But no such luck.

    If such massive screw-ups can happen, I’m sure a lot smaller screw-ups can happen too.

  104. tuukka — yeah, here’s my problem with people who argue that torture does sometimes work: So does carpet bombing. So do police states. So does indefinite detention without trial. There are all kinds of things that work to varying levels of utility — it’s just a matter of what you’re willing to give up in the same of security.

  105. Mr. Subtlety’s stance articulated ^here^ and further upthread —

    [I]t’s not a matter of stakes to me. Torture is never justified, period. I don’t doubt there are times when it might be helpful, or times when it might be convenient, or times when we might wish we could do it. But you gotta say no, we’re not going there. There are other ways –better ways– which may be more difficult, but they’re worth doing the work for because we simply don’t want to live in a world where it’s considered even marginally OK to torture. Besides, if we do it we give everyone else in the world a free hand to do it to us, too. We can hardly be outraged by cruel treatment of our own people if we’re engaged in the same practices. Some things are just wrong, period, and torture is one of those things. Not sometimes, not when it’s easy, not just when the stakes are low. Always.

    is the only correct stance.

    This is one of the few things where there is absolute truth. If we are to consider ourselves good, civilized people, then We. Can. Not. Torture. Ever.


  106. So how about blowing people up with unmanned drones while they’re sat eating lunch? Is that still OK? Is that still subject to “necessary evil” type logic? Or are we gonna have to wait until a republican is back in the White House before we decide it’s unconscionable? Because I’d much rather be water-boarded than blown up, all things considered.

    I’m not trying to be a dick or anything, this is a genuine question.

  107. I love our unmanned aerial systems/vehicles policy. What’s “unconscionable” about Prez GW Bush is that he didn’t use it much more often. Obama’s use of drones has been magnificent. He’s a ruthless killer and a warrior leader with a real task & purpose. Bush was a shortsighted Texas bloodluster with Daddy/revenge issues at best and a shortsighted puppet for war profiteers at worst. And he allowed evil punks like Cheney & John Yoo to make torture okay, somehow. Really, evil shit.

    Both C-in-C’s were my boss, both presided over commanders who deployed me multiple times, and I can tell you the difference from one to the other is stark. But the policy on torture has no room for change.

  108. **[H]ere is a quote from celebrated journalist/intellectual/public speaker/hero to many – The late Christopher Hitchens. – “The interrogators would hardly have had time to ask me any questions, and I knew that I would quite readily have agreed to supply any answer.” The quote is taken from an article he wrote after allowing himself to be subjected to water-boarding for journalistic, research-type purposes (and also that’s just how he rolled).**

    Yeah, I love the Hitch, too. But the point of the words I’ve placed in bold is that he would have given “any answer,” including incorrect answers, or bad intel. I’ve muzzle-poked a few guys during what we called “tactical questioning,” which is a technical Army term for on-site intel-gathering from LNs or persons of interest.
    [We’re not allowed to call it “interrogation” because that’s something only carried out by trained professionals, the 35 series of MOS (used to 96 or 97 series) or CIA or “other.”]
    It scared the shit out of them. Sometimes they give good answers and sometimes they just gag on their own fear while pissing themselves. If it’s anybody worth a damn in the HVT or AQ/Taliban hierarchy, then the guy’ll usually shut the fuck up and wait to be transferred to a better location than wherever we confront, threaten, sometimes injure, and detain him. Worse than that, though, if he’s clever, he’ll keep his cool and spill out some nonsense, put us on the wrong path, lead us on a whatever the Mesopotamic equivalent of “a wild goose chase” is.

  109. When it comes to torture, sometimes you just gotta go oldschool:

  110. well guys, just though you’d like to know that Bill Maher has come out against Zero Dark Thirty and it’s depiction of torture

  111. and shit, I may as well throw my two cents into this discussion about the war on terror and torture etc, even though I have not seen Zero Dark Thirty yet

    the truth is, I’m weary of the whole “war on terror” business, it already seems like a relic of a dead decade to me, capped off by them finally killing Bin Laden

    these days, I have enough personal shit to worry about to also burden my mind with thinking of political things too much, you got to know when to shut it down otherwise you will go insane and wind up like Alex Jones or something, because the truth is, none of our thoughts or opinions matter in the least, history goes the way it goes, no average person has any control over it, it’s like trying to control the tide or the weather

    I guess you could say I have a zen attitude about it, kinda like Steven Seagal in Marked for Death’s “tend to your own backyard” mindset, the war on terror fucking sucks, terrorism fucking sucks, torture fucking sucks, but you know what? nothing lasts forever

    it may seem like we’re doomed to live in this for the rest of our lives, but the Cold War went on for decades, that eventually ended, World War 2 seemed like an apocalypse, but that ended and eventually this War on Terror will end too, perhaps as the 21st century goes on and Religion in general dies a slow death, all these crazy fucking Muslim extremists will go the way of the dinosaur just like Christian extremists in America are (albeit slowly), this problem will just solve itself, after all, not even Allah himself can fight the power of porno on the internet

    a century from now, all this will be just another chapter in the history books, even 9/11 will just be another footnote, just another fucked up thing that happened in the past and there’ll be new problems to worry about, like maybe the robot uprising

  112. “…eventually this War on Terror will end too, perhaps as the 21st century goes on and Religion in general dies a slow death, all these crazy fucking Muslim extremists will go the way of the dinosaur just like Christian extremists in America are…)

    I couldn’t agree more Griff, I wish they’d just call it what it is – the War on Religious Extremism. This shit isn’t gonna be over until these crazy theocratic states get with the fucking program. Progress is a fact of life, these guys are just gonna have to grow a pair and accept it.

  113. And what fucking program is that? American christian fundamentalism? Scandinavian socialism? The English class system? A change will come, but it has to come from within. If history has shown us one thing, it’s that we can’t force people to change their way of living.

  114. Mouth – I gather from The Weight of Water thread you aren’t too happy with this movie (possible understatement). I think we’d all be interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject.

    BTW I was kinda hoping no-one would spot the ambiguity in that Hitch quote – shoulda fuckin’ better known better, as Vince Vega would say. I have seen a debate floating around youtube somewhere in which he was much less ambiguous though, so I don’t think I misrepresented his opinion. I think he said something along the lines of “of course torture works, if it didn’t there’d be no debate”. Although he also made it clear that he believes it to be pretty unreliable a lot of the time.

    My beef isn’t with people that are of the opinion that torture is inherently unreliable, though (probably true); it’s with people that have an absolute view that it has never even once been reliable, so therefore Bigelow most be either wrong or lying. I consider this to be a position motivated by politics rather than evidence, which irks me because I hold my fellow liberals to a much higher standard than that.

  115. pegsman- Progress itself is the program I’m referring to, because it’s the idea of progress that has all these people so upset (IMO). The west just happens to be the direction it’s coming from.

  116. yeah, the the War on Religious Extremism would be a more apt term, because that’s essentially what it is, as time goes on and Religion plays a less and less important role in modern life, all this terrorism and whatnot is a backlash against that, like a cornered dog

    I’m not saying Religion is ever gonna go away, but it will become more and more irrelevant to the point where this problem will essentially solve itself

  117. Holy shit was the new episode of Real Time With Blll Maher awful, and his attack on Zero Dark Thirty (that it didn’t address the moral issue of torture) was completely misguided. I’m baffled by the backlash against it from the left.

  118. yeah, not one of his best episodes, I’m disappointed to see he’s one of those people that think violent video games make people violent

    but of course he’s an old fuddy duddy that’s probably never even touched a video game, not even Pong, in his entire life

  119. it also scares me to now think Obama and Biden are now targeting games

    I mean for fuck’s sake people, I thought we were over that shit already?

  120. First they came for my Grand Theft Auto, and I said nothing.

    Then they came for my Skyrim, and I still said nothing.

    Then they came for my X-Rated Robocop DVD…

  121. The Americans in this page here act as if America is COMPLETELY RIGHT, whereas EVERYBODY ELSE IS WRONG and should either die out, be tortured or get killed. If that is the case, then you people have got another thing coming :)

    None of which helps this whitey fan wank that is ‘Zero Dark Thirty’.

  122. Wait…who said that Americans are completely right? I’m confused.

  123. I’m saying Americans are completely right.

    Never said anything about others being wrong or deserving to die, though.

    Chastain’s performance is okay, but she’s yet another lone wolf who gets results you stupid chief!.
    The several scenes where she’s ¡ACTING! are the scenes that are the most embarrassing, most stupidly conventional parts of the movie, the parts where she becomes just another standard loner hero, puffing her chest indignantly in the face of resistance or coolly vowing to kill all the bad guys with her bare hands (ish), doing a countdown (or count-up) montage and making her bosses get that sitcom-y “Uh-oh, there she goes again” look on their face. I love this shit in, like, COMMANDO or TAKEN, but it’s just fucking stupid in this movie.
    In my opinion.
    This is the least of my criticisms, so I don’t argue that you’re defective if this same stuff doesn’t bother you, or if, like the cinema audience when I watched 0DARK30, you laughed every time Maya said/did something uppity.

    Mike D’Angelo knows the score:

    Per that closing line, he would agree with me that the filmmakers are noncommittal to a stance on torture. Good/bad, effective/ineffective, animalism vs. civilization line-blurring… it’s whatever you want it to be.

    The movie suggests that the CIA (and presumably all freedom-loving Americans) would have benefited from the detainee program (torture program, that is) staying open under Obama’s administration. It suggests that we would have found UBL earlier if it hadn’t been shut down. And the guy who led the detainee program & fed the caged monkeys is promoted within Langley & the Pentagon, advising Panetta to the very end.
    So it’s clear the filmmakers liked the detainee program overall, though they depict how supposedly ugly it was from an individual’s perspective, according to accounts of what happened in those black sites & interrogation rooms — accounts that don’t exist, from sources who don’t exist. The movie takes unverified rumors & accounts of torture and just makes shit up. Which is what movies do. Which would be fine if the movie weren’t also claiming to be a true story.

    Mode7, you’d be right to say that I despise this movie. Reasons for my hatred are wide-ranging —

    -fake journalism that becomes shoddy filmatism;

    -the “lone wolf badass hero who gets results you stupid chief!” narrative;

    -philosophical differences;

    -the offensive meta-casting of the guy who played international terrorist CARLOS the Jackal as someone who hunts terrorists (That whole first scene & conversation with him is painfully unfunny and out of place, but I get the feeling the filmmakers thought it was a great little inside joke. “‘Hi mom, I’m a terrorist!'”)

    -some personal offenses (FOB Chapman suicide bomb sequence);

    -some forgivable nitpicks (There’s a part where a detainee is speaking Egyptian Arabic for some reason. No one in this movie is Egyptian.);

    -shockingly shallow, incorrect depiction & elision of military leadership protocol, professional standards, teamwork, preparations, & mission rehearsals (I could expand on this aspect heavily, for several paragraphs, but it might come off as esoteric ranting.);

    -and a big fuckin’ problem I have with the civilian reception of the movie,
    but this all enrages me into irrationality.

    The only good things I can say about this movie are:
    -I do appreciate the depiction of SSE, though I wish I didn’t have to look at the idiot goofball from PARKS & REC executing it. I have a personal connection to that aspect of military operations, dating back to 2008, when I literally wrote the book on SSE (as well as “Find Fix Finish Exploit,” incorporation of the CARVER method of targeting and intel-gathering & usage via on-the-ground units, and some other stuff) for my battalion (along with 1 or 2 co-authors who outranked me and, of course, got most of the credit). A lot of the procedures & technical language were adapted by the 4 brigade combat teams of the 82d Airborne Division, which means it’s been filtering out Army-wide from there. It’s one of the accomplishments of which I’m most proud.


    -“I want targets. Do your fucking jobs. Bring me people to kill.” — That was a good scene, I guess. Kinda came out of nowhere, unestablished, and the guy didn’t offer any helpful specifics to drive the plot or develop any characters, but I still liked his intensity.

  124. “-shockingly shallow, incorrect depiction & elision of military leadership protocol, professional standards, teamwork, preparations, & mission rehearsals (I could expand on this aspect heavily, for several paragraphs, but it might come off as esoteric ranting.)”

    If you do decide to elaborate on this, I think it would be fascinating to read.

    Seeing Andy Dwyer from Parks and Rec in the movie distracted me because his performance just seemed too showy and forced, and the transition from Maya’s world to the execution of the mission gave the film a disjointed, rushed feel. I thought the decision to show the Hakim character’s mournful reactions to the aftermath was poorly misjudged as well.

    Are the moments where the SEALs are whispering names to draw someone out based on fact?

  125. Joe— According to Navy SEAL Mark Owen in his book No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Bin Laden, both Bin Laden and his son Khalid were shot (separately) after peeking around a corner following the whispering of their respective names.

    Since Owen was right behind the point man as the SEALs made their ascent to the upper floors of the Abbottabad compound, I’m inclined to believe his recollection of that. In fact, as depicted in ZDT, the events of the raid from the time of the SEALs arrival to the death of Bin Laden almost exactly mirrors Owen’s account. For all of ZDT’s faults, it at least got that correct.

  126. Thanks, Joe. It’s about to get wordy.

    Larry, yeah, I got no issue with co-author Kevin Maurer’s book. (He also co-wrote NO WAY OUT: A STORY OF VALOR IN THE MOUNTAINS OF AFGHANISTAN, a great book which I have recommended on this websight before.) “Mark Owen” can fuck off, though. Not cool to blab specifically about ongoing operations like he apparently did.
    But the “whispering targets’ names” thing seems legit. When I did raids & cordon/search missions with my old Ranger unit, we never were quiet enough upon infil, even though they were 90% night missions, to get to the point where calling out a HVT’s name upstairs would be helpful, but I can see that it would be.

    Alright, I apologize that this is so much, Vern and everyone. I just got going on the keyboard after a long day and this looooong screed came out, and I already regret posting it, but. . .
    Alright, this is going to be a mix of admiration and burning hatred, some good that I obliquely refer to & respect, and some bad that drives me nuts:

    Alright, I don’t have a problem with the depiction of the SEAL team in the movie per se… It’s fine as is, it works… except that the movie goes out of its way to say, explicitly and in all the pre-programmed hype and in virtually every stupid fucking review of this fuckin’ thing, “Based on first hand accounts of actual events,” telling us that it is, like, the real deal, *the* definitive account of how we shot Osama in the face. Any “verisimilitude” that these assholes Boal & Bigelow didn’t capture in that piece of shit THE HURT LOCKER, they seem intent on getting it in the more deliberately {*ahembullshit*} “journalistic” {*coughbullshitcough*} 0DARK30.

    So, with that in mind, but with the caveat of forgiveness & understanding that the filmatists had to cut some things & not fully depict everything because they didn’t want to go out and make a 4 hour long movie, I have some problems with how they not only cut out but totally skipped & negligently elided the realness & thoroughness of how SEAL Team 6 or any spec-ops unit operates, especially when that unit is called upon to conduct literally the most high-profile, sensitive mission in the history of small-team operations.

    I mean, you wouldn’t do a docudrama on one of Michael Jordan & the Bulls’ championship runs in the 90s, and then just film him & Scottie Pippen hanging out at the gym one day, and then cut to them in the 4th quarter against the Trailblazers or Jazz in the NBA Finals, would you? That would not be definitive, would not be realistic, would not be “journalistic,” as so many myopic reviewers have been calling 0DARK30.

    You wouldn’t set out to do a docudrama on the story of how Kubrick filmed 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and just show Stanley getting a phone call from a studio chief one day, then cut to Stanley handing over the film to some projectionist, then cut to opening night in 1968, would you?

    You wouldn’t set out to do a docudrama on the invention of the iPhone, film 2 cursory scenes of Steve Jobs giving a presentation, cut to iPhone release day at the Apple Store, then cut to a clip of the stock market reacting to iPhone sales, and assume that’s the full “real” story of what happened with the advent of the iPhone, would you?

    You wouldn’t do a film on the rise of Vern, and cut straight from his AICN days to the sales numbers & influence of Seagalogy, would you? You’d be missing a fucking lot of important, essential shit from the in-between times, and you’d do his career a disservice by truncating your depiction of it in such a breezy, uncaring fashion.

    This is part of the problem I have with the depiction of SEAL Team 6’s piece in this terrible movie. The movie itself and everyone involved with the fucking movie says, “This is real. This is how it happened. Based on realness. The camera is gonna keep floating unsteadily and showing fuzzy shit in the foreground and there’s gonna be low-grade detainee torture video footage pushed into a CIA officer’s dvd-ROM and there’s gonna be some ominous dramatic music during some terror attack scenes but then no dramatic music during the Geronimo hit because THIS IS HOW IT REALLY HAPPENED.”

    And then they shortchange the most essential part.

    Not only shortchange them, but totally cut them off at the fucking knees, depict them as grunt cowboys who just happen to be nearby in Afghanistan when the call comes to conduct Neptune Spear. The movie makes them look like average soldiers/operators who are barely aware of what they’re doing, barely have a concept of the gravity of their awesome historic mission, and the movie purposefully reduces the depiction of the Navy task force/team’s efforts in order to reduce the actual (as in, in the real life reality that 0DARK30 fails to show) thoroughness & strenuousness & amazing professionalism of their actual effort in order to, by contrast, make more of the effort of the intel pencil-pushers & CIA field officers who this movie thinks deserve more of the glory (because that’s what fits the movie’s inartfully limited lone wolf redhead badass narrative).

    To follow my previous analogy about the Bulls’ championship run, the movie gives too much credit to Dennis Rodman & Phil Jackson, and not enough credit to Michael Jordan.

    So yeah, I don’t like how the movie just made it look like the SEALs were just some almost random grunt unit who happened to be available near the AfPak border for a hit.

    The movie also totally downplays the uniquely problematic nature of the first ever known usage of the advanced stealth Blackhawks, and totally ignores President Obama’s brilliant call to send in extra Chinooks (could have also been a great chance to flash back to President Carter’s failed hostage rescue mission), but I’m okay with that. And it doesn’t do as good a job as, say, the Weinsteins’ National Geographic movie, SEAL TEAM SIX: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN (which has a superior script than 0DARK30, especially in terms of “realism”), in depicting Admiral McRaven’s brilliant, cool verbal contributions to the Geronimo hit.

    (And – personal aside – the movie ignores M*uth’s contribution to the mission; dude flew & hiked through the fucking icy mountains to set up & update some of the retransmission stations in northern Afghanistan, the satellite equipment probably briefly used to help relay radio comms from the airborne SEALs & helo pilots to FOB Whatever and maybe the WH. Sigh.)

    But that’s more of a philosophically based anger about 0DARK30. More specifically, more pointedly, I wish the movie had done better in depicting SEAL Team 6 and what they do.

    Instead 0DARK30 deals in the same shorthanded shoddiness that plagued THE HURT LOCKER (another supposedly “This is how it really is” bullshit movie), which depicted an EOD team
    traveling in one truck (No.),
    showed an EOD NCO finding the terrorist triggerman for a massive IED, staring him in the face, then letting him walk away for no good reason (I want to headbutt Jeremy Renner.),
    showed an EOD specialist crying during a firefight (Jesus, no.),
    showed an EOD team not sure if they should take out an Iraqi guy filming a firefight position from his tower position (That’s protocol, idiots; kill.),
    and showed a 3-man EOD team idiotically & illegally chasing down off-site unidentified enemies in dark unknown corridors when an infantry platoon is one radio call & a few meters away (One of the stupidest, wrongest things ever filmed in a “realistic” film.),
    among other oddities.

    0DARK30 could easily have incorporated a montage (like the “120 days” red marker montage countdown/count-up I mentioned earlier) of the SEALs in the practice facility in Fort Bragg or wherever. They had the excellent mock-up sand table that Panetta-Gandolfini saw in his briefing; they had the politics guy saying, “POTUS might be interested in a strike; give us options.” All good stuff. I loved it.

    But why not show the operators prepping for the big mission instead of just showing them playing horseshoes & dicking around until zero hour?

    I can’t stress enough the importance of rehearsals rehearsals rehearsals in every major mission, especially one in which the trigger-squeezers have foreknowledge of the site, realistic to-scale sand tables & imagery & re-productions, and a clear objective.

    (I do kinda like how the movie just goes ahead and says, “You’re gonna kill UBL.”
    No “capture” directive. Ain’t no half-steppin.)

    SEAL Team 6 would not just be some gaggle of grunts who happen to be picked for the mission just b/c they’re there. The movie fucks this up.

    Ever seen THE UNIT? David Mamet’s outstanding tv show based on CSM Haney’s book INSIDE DELTA FORCE? In that tv show, they show that ODAs practice practice practice til their fucking hands bleed, til they can do a battle-speed walkthrough blindfolded on no sleep with live ammo before ever stepping foot outside the American compound rehearsal facility.

    Anyway, no spec-ops unit has a team leader who suddenly asks “Who here’s been in a helicopter crash before?” en route to the OBJ. Jesus Christ. That shit is a known quantity months beforehand. And in 0DARK30, this dumb question doesn’t fit in with the interesting part in the hangar where Andy Dwyer says, “…Cuz we lost a couple guys on an op with bad intel back in 07…”

    These guys know everything about each other. In an ODA, and presumably in a SEAL squad, you know if your teammates shave their pubes. You know their wives’ favorite desserts. You know the brand of chewing tobacco you all prefer. You know whether a guy holds his elbow up too high during morning flag salute. You know if he puts shampoo on his scalp before getting into the field shower to save time & water. You know if he is more likely to say “Wait one” or “Send it” on the radio during time-sensitive missions.
    You don’t get on a bird for the biggest military operation in post-WWII history, fly 40 miles into Pakistan, and then offhandedly ask, “Oh by the way, you guys are prepared in case there’s a helo crash, right? Um, raise your hands if…” In 0DARK30, this is an extremely disrespectful, shortsighted scene; it’s like if you asked, to go back to my Bulls championship analogy, “Hey, John Paxson, you can hit a 3 pointer, right?” during a 4th quarter timeout or, to go back to my Vern biopic analogy, if you asked, “Oh, hey Vern, you know what aikido is, right?” before publishing SEAGALOGY.

    Again, where are the rehearsals? There’s a standard for dismounting any aircraft. A team will literally practice the man-by-man movement from bird to dirt, inch by fucking inch, figuring out their fanning pattern, their sectors of fire, how they hold & point their muzzles, who gets on the radio first to relay that phase of the mission, distance from exit-door to prone or walking position, how the wind from the helo blades feels, how the wind from the helo blades’ rotation affects sight, how the wind from the helo blades affects hearing, etc., all on a *team* level. And they’ll look like idiots at first when you’re doing it in some safe patch of ground in North Carolina, jumping in full battle-rattle from some random elevated slab of concrete to simulate dismount procedures & distances, but you do it b/c you want, no, *need* everything to be perfect. On an individual level, you rehearse it over & over again so that you learn the best configuration for your mag pouches, how tight you want to adjust your chin strap, how the onboard seatbelts work, whether you want to turn on your NODs before or after dismounting, whether to wear eyepro or not, which side of your face you want the helo-internal comms mic, how much water you want to drink 1-2 hours before hitting the OBJ, etc.. *This* would be realism. 0DARK30 just kind of says, “Whatever, not like this is supposed to be *the* definitive realistic journalistic account of how this happened. Let’s just briefly introduce the SEAL team and fly them to the climax, who cares, it’s not their story.”

    Rehearsals rehearsals rehearsals.
    We rehearse everything. Everything. We rehearse dismounting a vehicle. Mag changes. Pro-words. Breaching center-open doors versus left- or right-opening doors. Clearing shallow rooms versus deep rooms. 4 man clear versus 2 man clear. High man Low man. Rooftop sniper check versus clearing ground level possible gunmen.
    Weeks of rehearsals, slow-speed walkthrough, dry run (empty weapons), blank run (weapons loaded with blanks), live run at walk-speed or half-speed, then, sometimes, live run at full mission speed (with live ammo) with OCs (observer-controllers), then live run at full speed with brass watching (like D/CIA and/or Admiral McRaven and/or POTUS and/or VPOTUS and/or SECDEF) to show off, then live run full speed, then again, and again, and again, and again.

    But this doesn’t make its way into this movie account of “how it really happened,” despite all the other “thoroughly researched” and depicted aspects of historical realism, because it would distract from Maya’s hero narrative, I guess. Hate to be reminded that she didn’t actually kill UBL, that others did more gruntwork than she did.

    More minor nitpickisms:

    -Not sure if listening to an iPod while flying for the first time ever into Pakistan on an untested aviation asset (advanced radar-dampening, silent Blackhawk) is a go. That’s not even allowed on a 747 during takeoff. It sure as fuck isn’t professional. I listened to an iPod, sometimes even jerry-rigged an iPod to a MRAP or HMMWV’s sound system, during patrols & admin runs, but never during kill/capture missions. I’d slap the fuck out of a guy if I catch him listening to country music en route to Ace of Spades’ compound in Pakistan. Unprofessional.

    -Where’s the team’s focus? Movie tries too hard to make them casual.

    -Would have been nice if Maya had begun her hangar presentation with “Gentlemen…” That’s the Army way, The Standard; maybe CIA & Navy do it differently.

    And it would be a leader to leader chat first. You go to the team chief with the mission details first. You never ever just download all the sensitive info straight to the whole team, cold, face-to-face, never have an asset or Admiral just tell the whole squad the whole shebang right off the bat. This is an embarrassment, a slap to the face, to the DETCO or Team Chief or Senior Leader. In my experience. [But this would have slowed down the movie, so I’m okay with that… except, again, the fucking movie (and most reviews) *insists* that it’s How It Really Happened – Just Like Journalism!]

    Minor-er nitpicks:
    -Mechanix gloves are unauthorized b/c they are not flame retardant. In the event of a fire or grasping a heated automatic weapon’s barrel, they will melt into your hand. No-go, chief. Don’t wear that shit.

    -The radio chatter from ground level during Neptune Spear is dumbed down and over-explicatory (A junior wouldn’t start a conversation mid-mission, especially one inside Pakistan, the most sensitive mission ever, in order to question why “4 minutes” instead of “10 minutes”, and a leader would never respond by explaining that it’s cuz the helicopters & F16s are both inbound; he’d just say, “Cuz I fuckin said 4 minutes, motherfucker; now hurry the fuck up and be at the PZ in 3 & a half mikes. Out!”) but that doesn’t bother me, I’m okay with that.

    -So much elision — I would have liked to have seen how they cut the power to the Abbottabad compound, as written reports state. I’m curious about this, but I’m okay with the movie not showing this.

    Again, I don’t hate the movie for ^this^ or for the lack of ^this^. I hate it because it insists that it’s “How it really happened,” *the* definitive account of how we shot Osama in the face, yet it fails in so many ways to be realistic or thorough.

  127. Mouth:

    A hearty thanks for the depth of your account. Fascinating stuff. A few things I wanted to respond to/jump off from:

    1) You mention time and again that you would give the film more of a pass if not for the culture of supposed definitiveness surrounding it. I’ve heard reference to Boal having some super-secret source from which he derived a lot of the shit in the film, but I missed any reference *within* the film that claims that it’s any more realistic than anything else. I’m also fairly ignorant of the nature and/or frequency of actual quotes from Bigelow/Boal describing their own stance on the film’s realism-vs-dramatic-license. Anyway point being, it seems like it fits into a broader debate about whether or not you’re supposed to view a film in a vacuum or is it fair to take into account the filmmaker’s remarks, critics’ hype, etc. (The correct answer is probably that postmodernism has obviously happened, and deal with it).

    2) My dad, working in hospitals, could never stand stuff like ER and House because of how baldly it flew in the face of what he new to be an acceptable level of realism vs license. To say, you obviously accept that a movie will not be realistic, but it’s another matter to be unrealistic in such a degree as to be insulting. But it’s crazy how differently things come off to a civilian/layman! You cite the ‘interesting’ scene in the hangar where Andy is asking Maya about the nature of her intel. For me that scene was a broad stroke that established once-and-for-all the film’s position that the SEALs were not just grunts, but sophisticated modern warriors. For you the scene was a small band-aid on a gaping wound.

    3) My own area of sort-of-expertise (haven’t co-authored any books) is the science of computers, enough so that I could tell you some interesting shit about the gaffes made by SOCIAL NETWORK. Bear with. I mean most people can speculate that writing code while playing a drinking game is probably Hollywood bullshit, but what’s more fascinating is where the movie attempts to hew to reality. You may recall the scene where Zuckerberg leaves his comp sci class while the professor is casually stumping them with a hella elite problem, and of course Z flippantly gives the correct answer over his shoulder as he leaves. The actual word-for-word of this question and response are taken directly from Zuck’s actual real-life notes for this real-life class he really took, meaning that (like Boal’s presumed wikileak thing) the film has some serious sourceage and is reaching for serious authenticity. But it’s complete bullshit. The professor is constructing the boundary conditions of a hypothetical scenario, but they take half of the boundary conditions and turn them into the answer to a supposedly genius-level question.

    Now what’s relevant about this is that you can invest yourself pretty heavily into serious research, and still end up somewhere totally divorced from reality once you try to parlay your information into the rhythm and drama of a film. Of course the difference is that this is more like an easter egg…if you know about this stuff and are paying attention, you go “waaaaait a second.” More comparable is probably the fact that the whole culture of computer programming as approached by the movie is pretty fucking ridiculous (coding is tedious mathism and doesn’t go well with hard partying or excited spectators or kinetic filmmaking) but here are the differences:
    a) SOCIAL NETWORK said over and over “we are a work of fiction, we make no attempt to depict shit like it really went down,” which means even Mark Z couldn’t get too worked up about the film portraying him to be a sack of shit

  128. Ahem, wrong button.

    As I was saying,
    b) The stakes for the subject matter are considerably different! (Writing code for social media vs medicine or warfare).

    4) You (Mouth) reach a very different conclusion from me regarding the intent of the film in general. (Without delving into realism of the actual operation, weight given to the SEALs’ contribution, etc). For me Maya’s lone-wolfness came off more as zealotry than as something you were supposed to rally behind. Her character development is more of a cautionary tale. One moment of the film I found fascinating is the scene where her torture mentor tells her he’s taking a desk job in Washington because torturing people all day, every day, for 30 years or whatever has made him come a little unglued, but he puts it in the same tone as if he wants to take time off to spend more time with his wife or something. Anyway the point is, between this movie and HURT LOCKER it seems likely to me that B n B are total bleeding heart liberals, who think it’s totally self-evident that our military and intelligence operations in the middle east are fucked*. They present their anti-war tirades with an aire of journalistic objectivity, so that when you arrive at the same conclusion they wanted you to it will appear as though you arrived at it on your own. (For the record, I don’t necessarily have a problem with them doing this; I think HURT LOCKER is one of the best films I’ve seen in the last decade because it’s basically the first movie since WAGES OF FEAR to understand how to construct perfect suspense sequences; haven’t made up my mind on 0Dark yet).

    *Maybe the best evidence for this in 0Dark30 is how it mocks and punishes Maya’s female colleague for her investment and zeal.

  129. Well, I’m convinced. Zero Dark Thirty = unrealistic/insulting. I still feel obliged to recommend it to friends and family based on its entertainment value but my recommendation will now come with a disclaimer. Thanks for the info, Mouth.

    BTW did you ever see the David Simon mini-series Generation Kill? Please tell me you didn’t find that one insulting in it’s not-realism – I don’t wanna have to reappraise The Wire.

  130. The Wire is basically autobiographical for Burns and Simon, unlike Gen Kill. One wouldn’t reflect on the other, right?

  131. Came across this bit about the film by Matt Taibbi on rollingstone.com

    “…Bigelow is now going with a line that “depiction is not endorsement,” that simply showing torture does not amount to publicly approving of it.

    If Bigelow really means that, I have a rhetorical question for her: Are audiences not supposed to cheer at the end of the film, when we get bin Laden? They cheered in the theater where I watched it. And is Maya a good character or a bad character? Did she cross some dark line in victory like Michael Corrleone, did she lose her moral self and her humanity chasing her goal like Captain Ahab, or is she just a modern-day Sherlock Holmes (or, hell, John McClane) getting his man in the end?”

    Basically, he saw a completely different film than I did. I can’t IMAGINE cheering at the end of the movie. Or thinking Maya was an unambiguously good character. Of COURSE she lots her humanity in chasing the goal, she even basically says as much to Gandolfini. He asks what else she’s done and she says “Nothing. I’ve done NOTHING.” She is an UBL seeking machine.

    Furthermore, he raves about the film (ethical qualms aside) in terms of it being this kinetic, breathless thriller. I just really don’t get it. I thought the film was presented as lifelessly as possible. It went beyond being a “procedural” into the realm of being, like, a “routineural” or something. Which makes the little hero-moment outbursts from time to time all the more suspect and worthy of a more close examination in my opinion, as far as what is the real intent with Maya’s character and how are we supposed to feel about her.

    Or maybe nobody wants to talk about the movie anymore now that Mouth obliterated it.. :)

  132. I agree, Renfield. It would’ve been so easy to make the movie that Taibbi describes. Maybe that’s what John Stockwell’s SEAL TEAM SIX is, I’m not sure. But it sure as hell is not ZERO DARK THIRTY. He clearly saw the movie but it seems like his mind had to be wandering for the last hour at least. Or maybe he couldn’t hear anything over the weirdo pumped up audience he describes.

  133. My audience laughed & cheered at Maya’s every “standing up to The Man” moment.

    0DARK30 is like an elaborate, better-researched episode of LAW & ORDER, except L&O has the decency to state, correctly, “Ripped from the headlines,” not “Based on actual events” with hundreds of leaks & press releases & op-eds & reviews telling us that it’s “journalistic” and suggesting that it’s as close as possible to the real thing. The word “journalism” means something to me. I hate seeing it cheapened.

    I’m more mad at the bullshit surrounding the movie than the movie itself, but in this case the bullshit surrounding the movie was gladly accepted into the narrative of the movie itself, greedily celebrated & played with by the filmatists as much as by the reviewers, producers, & publicists.

    I get that the movie & filmatists are making everything in the story Maya-centric. That’s fine, that’s great. Explains why Admiral McRaven isn’t even noticeable in the movie unless you catch a quick glance at his uniform’s name tape. Explains why Panetta deigned to visit Maya in the lower level cafeteria and didn’t mind saying “something something bin Laden” out loud in their conversation in a declassified setting, while Neptune Spear (the most toppest secret mission ever carried out, as far as we know) was in development upstairs & at the unseen practice facilities in Fort Bragg & a mock-up in Afghanistan, with dozens of other people with lower security clearances milling around in that cafeteria. That explains why SEAL Team 6 becomes an extension of Maya herself, putting her essentially in the compound when they pop Osama in the face (as Mike D’Angelo also notes in that link above).

    [This last trick is also somewhat cleverly foreshadowed in a mid-movie interrogation scene in which Maya has a silent strongman ally twice punch a detainee on her command. She’s getting the intel & inflicting the punishment, she taps her partner on the shoulder as the silent signal to act (a lot like in an infantry squad’s signal during a room-clearing maneuver), but she doesn’t get her own hands dirty or bruised, doesn’t physically go all the way (except when she’s walking around in burka-disguise, suppressing her identity, in Pakistan). The interrogator strongman assistant is an earlier, micro-version of the SEAL Team 6 unit from the climax.]

    That explains why each terror attack, assassination, & assassination attempt become the skeletal outline of the narrative arc of 0DARK30, as well as the main parts of the “ripped from the headlines” blow-by-blow timeline depicted in the movie. I’m not offended by that, dramatically depicting those attacks that really happened in presumably realistic fashion. But the movie is trying to have its cake & eat it, too. The terror attacks that fuel Maya’s professional ferocity and her story become like craven money shots in a standard action-thriller, not a journalistic account.

    And the finale, the Geronimo hit, is only there to give the audience what it wants. The filmmakers know that that’s the reason we’re going to see this thing; that’s the big money shot, the big dramatic set piece, the imminent fulfillment moment that everything needs to lead up to
    (before the movie undercuts it with the final close-up on the plane to unknown destination, bringing us back around to Maya’s confusion, loneliness, & sorrow – which is a powerful shot, except it also offensively suggests that all the attacks & suicide bombs & interrogations & spec-ops missions to this point only have meaning insofar as they serve to explain this one woman’s life work & pain).
    So they retroactively tailored it to fit their Maya narrative, which, again, is fine, except that in doing so they totally fucked over the guys who actually carry out the mission and they show, to my eyes, that they don’t know what the fuck they’re doing with these characters based on real people. They abandon their “journalistic” approach. They don’t give a fuck about a proper “journalistic” depiction of the SEALs, except on a cursory level, a level that’s just good enough to pass an action-movie realism test by lazy untrained civilian standards (and the same standards that won THE HURT LOCKER hyperbolic praise & awards for the “realistic” depiction of EODs), because that would get in the way, and they’re hoping we don’t notice, since everything else is so presumably “journalistic” and “realistic” — *the* definitive account of What Really Happened.

    Just come out and say it was “Ripped from the headlines, mixed with an artistic interpretation of interviews, research, & redacted documents.” Don’t try to be classy & overblown. Don’t suggest to me that you’re printing textbooks. LAW & ORDER knows that most of its courtroom scenes, though they comment seriously on serious issues & historical events, are condensed bullshit, but it’s good, satisfying stuff, not a purported re-creation of historical fact.

    This article
    addresses a different topic, but the words are appropriate to describe my complaints. Read the section that begins, “Another sort of complicity has been observable among the mainstream reviewers of the film…” You can apply this HuffPo writer’s complex misgivings about the film’s dealing with torture to my condemnation of how the movie elides military accuracy & thoroughness.

    ***“…but honest is just what the film is not, if honesty implies candor, completeness, and an educated judgment; and Zero Dark Thirty does not grapple with complexities so much as it submits to convention and myth. The mainstream reviewers were all influenced by the patina of prestige of Kathryn Bigelow, and the knowledge that her last film, The Hurt Locker, another thriller of the war on terror which bears a topical similarity to Zero Dark Thirty, won her an Oscar as best director.
    The aesthetic apology signaled by these reviewers, “Nobody here but us artists!”, is part of a larger tendency in the entertainment culture. Bigelow herself in defending the movie at first took an aesthetic exemption. An op-ed that she recently wrote for the Los Angeles Times was more elaborate and confused: she now declares that her film is “rigorous” (historically rigorous? logically? morally?)***

    Bigelow defends it as “rigorous.”
    Manolha Dargis calls it “A seamless weave of truth and drama.”
    I call it truthiness, which is a nicer word than it deserves.

    There’s a lot of evidence of Striving for Excellence in this movie, but it fucked up the most important part in my opinion. It’s an above-average movie by most standards, but the distance between the bar the movie (& its publicists & fawning reviewers) proclaimed for itself and the actual film is vast.
    Its shameful marketing, its leveraging of angry Senators’ letters of reprimand in order to sell the controversy and sell more tickets, and its truthiness offends me. The critics’ reactions to it, joining the controversy buzz as profitable click-bait and throwing trophies & roses at its feet from day 1 of its release, all the while without seeing what I see, just make it unbearable.

  134. Mouth — Honestly, I think the only thing that bothers me is not that the film isn’t accurate, it’s that they ever tried to claim it was. It’s ridiculous to expect movies to be journalism, and equally ridiculous to claim that your movie is. We don’t make movies so we can present reality, we make them to portray an experience. Movies are at the most basic level pure artifice, so asking them to reveal a literal real-world truth is absurd. I think ZD30 is perfectly wonderful at presenting a gripping, unique story set in the recent past. Bigelow only ruined it by claiming it literally depicts reality. And I think you’re right that the claim was more about stirring up controversy to sell tickets than it ever was a artistic goal for the film.

    I loved the movie and don’t mind in the slightest that it’s an extremely iffy history lesson. But they should just embrace that they’ve made a damn fine thriller and stop trying to argue that it’s some kind of enlightened attempt to tell the public the truth.

  135. I’m still confused on a few points.

    Obviously it’s possible to be “rigorously” “journalistic” in your approach to your film’s background, whereas the actual film has nothing to do with reality. I mean, that’s what the Historical Fiction genre is all about. Even, like, Game of Thrones has a hefty amount of “rigorous” research into medieval living conditions behind it, all in the name of simply lending an *aura of underlying authenticity* to a fantasy setting.

    Having read Bigelow’s LA Times op-ed, and the HuffPo article linked above by Mouth, and Wikipedia’s summary of the film’s inception, and other shit google coughed up for me (cursory/minimal research, is what I mean to imply), I can’t come up with evidence to back up the rancor of those who think there’s a culture of “this is how it REALLY HAPPPENED” surrounding the film. Wikipedia, for example, quotes Boal talking about multiple drafts of the film, and using “a lot” of the information from his research, all of which implies that he’s using some shit he learned to craft a fictional film, and deciding to use different amounts of it at different points in the creative process, eg.

    That Huffington article is pretty fascinating. I was grabbed by this line, about Obama’s euphemistic reference to the assassination:

    “Delivered justice. The neutralizing abstraction of the phrase, so dear to the president, hovers like a bad angel over the entire length of Zero Dark Thirty.”

    The article, at length, accuses the film of reflecting this current attitude of ambivalence towards the torture/revenge/assassination culture, and it’s driven home in the above line. But it seems to me that acting as such a reflection may be exactly the point of the film, and exactly where the content and value of its realism comes into play. And why the film is exclusively about Maya (who encapsulates this attitude) and not about any of the things that Mouth seems to feel it should have also been about.

    Seriously, when people are saying the film is “realistic”, it’s USUALLY in the spirit of “but we DID torture people, it would be dishonest to not acknowledge that.” I haven’t read anything that indicates that people believe this film to be “rigorous” in the sense that it tells you everything you need to know about the torture debate, and represents all the different sides of it. I haven’t read anything that proposes that the film gives you an accurate chronology of the detective work involved with finding bin Ladin, or an accurate depiction of how a SEAL team operates.

    I HAVE heard the filmmakers claim that they wanted to show you the sort of shit involved with high-level intelligence work, and nobody seems to be arguing that the film fucks this aspect up too badly (aside from, if I may call them, “nitpicks” such as the circumstances under which Tony Soprano talks to Maya about classified stuff).

    I think the film accurately reflects, in Maya, the sort of idiom that Boal and Bigelow seem to have been trying to depict — the same idiom that the HuffPo article pejoratively calls the film out for depicting. But it’s really what you want a film to do, right? To demonstrate a perspective. I shudder to think of how some of the film’s detractors would fare trying to interpret FUNNY GAMES. (Specifically, those detractors who think the correct reaction was supposed to be an unambiguous cheer for Maya the angelic knight in shining armor.)

  136. I also find it ironic that there’s so much onus placed on the film for reflecting the correct philosophy towards torture.

    Honestly, I can’t think of any films* that have torture in them that glorify the act LESS than Zero Dark Thirty. Think of like, torture as an operatic blood ballet in PASSION OF THE CHRIST or any other film directed by or featuring Mel Gibson.

    We’re okay with torture being a fun and kinetic thing in those movies because we assume they’re not supposed to be a *definitive* account. So if you’re so pissed about 0Dark30’s depiction of torture, you must also be saying it’s the *definitive* account, yeah? Or at least demanding that it should have been.

  137. The Original... Paul

    January 22nd, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    One more week… just one more week…


    If it’s not bad enough that I don’t get to see the movie until two months after everybody else, I miss out on the best debate / scrap that’s been in this comments section for months? Aaargh!

  138. Mouth, as a representative of the Fawning Critics Society I would like to ask you this: are there movies that depict this sort of thing in a more accurate fashion than ZERO DARK THIRTY, and are those movies anywhere near as good as ZERO DARK THIRTY? If so I definitely want to see those.

    I agree with Renfield. I don’t think any serious person believes this is a completely journalistic account, and certainly both Bigelow and Boal have stated about ten thousand times that it’s not. My sense is that it’s probably closer to the truth than most movies like this, or than what I would have imagined had happened, and this is part of why it’s interesting. Am I naive to believe that?

  139. Vern, you got me there. I don’t know. I like the John Stockwell movie, the way it uses real on-record quotes from political-military leaders, the straightforward way it depicts historical moments previously captured in real journalism while making an imperfect but rousing, suspenseful film with propulsive editing & score, good acting, and a modest intrusion of fictional bullshit to humanize/dramatize the SEAL characters. It’s smaller-scale but I found it very interesting.

    And I don’t disagree with anything posted here. You’re still my favorite online writer; that won’t change, and I apologize for scolding your efforts or overgeneralizing your take on a movie. I just want to be like the good guys in CLOUD ATLAS and contribute one of those meager countless drops into & against the ocean of praise that has become the narrative of 0DARK30 & its reception.

    I know as well as anyone how hard it is to find a good, satisfying action movie and to want to latch onto it, to tell our friends in the realm of Badass Cinema, “Hey, this is what you should be doing, not that other halfassed bullshit. More like this, please.” And I hate that I’d piss on that sentiment.

    The movie scene is a dead-end on this issue. Personally, I think it’s way too soon to commemorate the events of the past several years in condensed cinema form, especially when AfPak is still a war zone with ongoing US operations (That’s just a personal preference for me; it’s fine to disagree.), and especially when there are 1000s of people you could ask or investigate or read their books/essays/articles on What Really Happened. There are mountains of superior accounts of Neptune Spear & the manhunt (like the book Manhunt by Peter Bergen, which I mentioned in the SNAKE EATER thread this past May), and I fear that all this data, this amazing story told in this mountain of other sources, will be overcome & washed away in the American psyche by a 160 minutes worth of movie.

    Pay your $12, sit on a cushioned chair for 3 hours, and suddenly you just *know* everything about how we got bin Laden. There’s your history lesson, Americans; fuck books. That’s how it is now. When you think of Navy SEALs, you think of the end of 0DARK30; you think of the shoeshiner from Parks & Rec. And that’s okay because the filmatists and 90% of the reviews said the movie was basically “journalism.”
    (I have the same type of problem with most prestige biopics.)

    Just surveying the many reviews & commentaries on 0DARK30 is telling; the word “journalistic” is huge on the word cloud for this thing.
    Let’s look at one example I found when stalking out Mike D’Angelo’s article earlier. His colleague Scott Tobias wrote,

    ***“0DARK30 stands to become the dominant narrative about this important historical event, no matter its distortions, composites, or other slippery feints of storytelling. In that, it wields a dangerous power.”
    “… has a journalistic quality that still allows for some nuance and ambiguity, where the fog of war can cloud up the scene. It’s impossible for a film like 0DARK30 to be entirely apolitical—and presenting it as a piece of just-the-facts reportage makes it, if anything, more suspicious—but the Rorschach blot Bigelow and Boal have made out of this loaded story speaks well of their methods. A rough triangulation of opinion columns puts them right on the money.”
    “As with THE HURT LOCKER, Bigelow and Boal approach people doing dangerous jobs with a respect that veers uncomfortably close to reverence, but they’re meticulous, process-oriented filmmakers, and their quest for verity isn’t just a pose. They offer up a document for fact-checkers.” ***

    Peter Labuza, to give one more example representative of thousands of reviewers, repeatedly calls it “journalistic.” He semi-facetiously tweeted, “They should make a movie out of 0DARK30.”

    The NY Times printed that 0DARK30 is “A seamless weave of truth and drama.”

    I mean, all ^these statements^ seem specifically designed to infuriate me, and that’s just a very small sampling. This must be like how comics nerds would feel if every article they read about Superman referred to his alter ego, Peter Parker.


    Here’s another article that addresses torture primarily (and references the Senators’ properly condemnatory letter re:0DARK30), but happens to also describe a lot of my hard-to-describe feelings on other issues of accuracy, etc.:

    **Boal and Bigelow—not their critics—first promoted the film as a kind of journalism. Bigelow has called Zero Dark Thirty a “reported film.” Boal told a New York Times interviewer before the controversy erupted, “I don’t want to play fast and loose with history.”**


    renfield mentioned THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, which is an interesting counterexample. When it was released, there were reports that Pope John Paul approvingly said of Mel Gibson’s movie, “It is as it was.”
    The Telegraph also reported, “ [Gibson] has strongly denied that [the movie] is intended to upset Jews, although he told an interviewer: “It is true that the Bible says, ‘He came into His own and His own received Him not.’ I can’t hide that.””

    Kathryn Bigelow said on tonight’s The Colbert Report:
    “I couldn’t not show it, because that would be whitewashing… It was also a part of the history, and we wanted to tell the story respectfully & honestly, and so, since it’s part of the history, we had to show enhanced interrogation…”
    “But I stand by the movie… I wouldn’t change anything in the movie because it’s based on, certainly based on an honest telling of the story as we know it.”


    Anyway, on a final positive note, I do like the notion that many fundamentalist jihadist freaks will have a chance to see the film and to see the world react positively to a film that depicts a smart, attractive, petite woman dominating national security policy & guiding the most high profile manhunt in history. America!

  140. Mouth, just to pick up on something Mode7 asked earlier, have you seen GENERATION KILL and if so what do you think of it?

  141. Oh, no, I saw like 5 minutes of it once, and I remember thinking it was legit. There was a guy talking on the radio in a combat zone CP, I think, and he got all the jargon correct, except he kind of over-enunciated (but that’s probably a good thing for tv show).

    Always meant to check it out sometime; I hear good things.

  142. I think of it in comparison to movies like MUNICH and KILLER ELITE which claim to be based on true stories, but in both cases they’re based on books that at least according to some people are complete fiction. As in, not even based on real operations. I don’t believe that the story told in MUNICH really happened, but it’s a great fucking thriller and drama, woven through real history and tragedy, that has a poetic truth to it, it says something about our world and our troubles. ZERO DARK THIRTY is also a fictionalized historic cloak and dagger story, but it centers around people who really are real, really are known to have been involved in similar operations and even were interviewed by Boal and Bigelow. In fact some of the detractors, like the one I quoted in the review, criticized it *because* they interviewed the people, as if that was unethical. (If the movie gives too much credit to “Maya” that might not just be trying to create a “lone wolf” story as you say, it might also be because they heard the story from her bias, and as we’ve read she felt that some of the people getting credit along with her had actually been obstructing her.)

    I figure anyone, including you, would believe this to be a fictional movie but one that is closer to true events than MUNICH is. But even if it isn’t, I think as a story about our country and the dark path we’ve found ourselves down, as well as just a story about an interesting character, it has tremendous value.

    I’m sorry you hate the movie so much, but I really appreciate your detailed trashing of it. I think alot of your criticisms come down to an interpretation of the movie that I don’t agree with, but all the more inside stuff that would never occur to me is really interesting and not a perspective I’ve seen anywhere else.

    Also I’m glad you liked SEAL TEAM SIX because I was planning to watch it and a buddy told me it was a piece of shit and now I have hope again.

  143. Vern, the mission depicted in MUNICH happened in real life. I haven’t seen the movie, but as I’ve said before the Israeli team came to Lillehammer (famous from the TV series with Steven Van Zandt), Norway in 1973 and shot an innocent waiter they believed to be one of the terrorists.

  144. You’re right Pegsman, I guess I was misremembering what I had read about it before. Many people have questioned the credibility of the main source of the book, who Bana’s character is based on. But apparently Spielberg put together a team to investigate him and discovered FBI files proving he was really part of the operation.

  145. Yeah I have no idea what bizarro world theatre Taibbi saw this movie in, but I can’t imagine people cheering at the end of this movie. I’m not implying that he’s making that up or anything, since I didn’t think people would be PARTYING IN THE STREETS when he died in real life, but they did. I do have to admit people were laughing when the Seal team was whispering “Osama! Osama!” to lure him out, though. It’s just such an unexpected moment.

    I haven’t seen the Bill Maher episode b/c I lost my HBO, but I’ve gone from being a huge fan to being infuriated by him in the last few years. Besides becoming less funny and more smug and assholish (and also weirdly insecure and resorting to “i’m richer than you” or “i’m more famous than you” insults to people he doesn’t like), it seems like he’s fallen into that Gawker-style game/trap of “i’m more liberal than you, let me prove it by expressing my outrage louder than you”. It doesn’t surprise me at all that he hates this movie.

    I think just the fact that people are arguing over whether it endorses torture, shows that the movie’s not explicitly endorsing it. You can argue that the clues they received from torture didn’t help them at all, or you can argue that it totally did, and I can see both sides being right. I do have to admit that “Dan”, the main guy doing the torturing, is presented as a really decent guy, not an asshole – that’s probably the most pro-torture thing about the movie in my eyes.

    I honestly thought there’d be more discussion in the media of the soldiers putting bullets in already downed targets at the end (including women). I suspect respect for/fear of the troops is probably the only reason people haven’t loudly expressed outrage at that scene and declared that Kathryn Bigelow endorses shooting unarmed women lying on the ground. I don’t think that shot of Pratt(?)’s eyes after he clinically puts a few extra rounds into the woman was supposed to induce rah-rah cheering. But it’s not like he shows regret. It’s a real “this is how it went down, warts and all” depiction that I think applies to the whole movie.

  146. Hostile act, hostile intent, per Rules of Engagement and Law of Armed Conflict — You can use force up to and including deadly force to protect yourselves, protect designated materiel, protect POWs & LNs, and carry out the mission if you achieve PID on a person guilty or suspected of hostile intent/hostile act.

    Being in the same fortified house as Osama and his armed family members (some of whom were shooting at the Americans) counts as a hostile act, thus it’s okay, legally, to shoot them all (unless Pakistan wanted to claim some measure of protected sovereignty as a place not officially at war with anyone, but that would mean they were claiming Osama as a citizen).

    Of course, the SEALs show discretion with most of the women and with all the kids, so the raid was a far far more favorable outcome for most the of compound’s residents than a JDAM-missile-HELLFIRE barrage would have been.

    Also, in the NatGeo movie SEAL TEAM 6: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN, the SEALs (*spoiler*) whisper “Khalid, Khalid,” same as in 0DARK30, but the killing of Ace of Spades is depicted differently.

    The Stockwell movie also is more explicit about Adm. McRaven & the team’s Lt. Cmdr. expressly telling their subordinates to discriminate between innocents & dangerous targets, during planning, during rehearsals, and just before liftoff on May Day.

  147. Mouth, more thanks to you for taking the time to detail your reaction to the movie. The perspective you’ve earned definitely added more to consider than many of the critical/op-ed pieces floating around out there. If it’s any consolation, I didn’t interpret the movie’s decision to not show the SEAL prep as a message that it didn’t happen; my guess is that the filmmakers were already wrestling with portraying an operation with a known outcome, so dive right into it without any hand-tipping dry runs and hope that the performers’ competence can carry the day.

    According to Time Magazine, the movie didn’t get vehicle or equipment support from the Dept of Defense. Makes me wonder if the absence of cooperation led to some of the protocol “nitpicks”.

  148. Trying to watch Stewart & Colbert again tonight, and I can’t get away from this shit. Tonight’s ad for 0DARK30 ran at least twice on Comedy Central:

    starts with the creepy kids choir rendition of a Metallica song scoring some text,
    a quotation –
    “Too often… we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought” –President JFK

    cut to Chastain in promo interview blurb – “We all remember where we were when we found out Osama bin Laden was killed.”

    text –
    “a film to define a decade” – Forbes

    Bigelow blurb – “I think it’s really the story of a lifetime. Where this man has been hiding has sort of preoccupied a country for a decade.”

    text –
    “Years from now… everybody will still be talking about this film” – US Weekly

    overlapping audio from Mark Boal –
    “This is living history.”
    {cut to Boal in talking head promo blurb}
    “It puts you right in the center of things in a way that only a movie can do.”

    awards & praise blurb screen

    Bigelow – “I hope people will see the movie, and judge for themselves.”


    ABC News special segment a few weeks ago:

    Martha Raddatz: “That had to be a challenge, Kathryn, because the whole world knows how they *think* this ends, right?”

    Bigelow: “But they don’t know how it happened. . .”

    Raddatz voiceover: “The assault on the compound, like the rest of the film, is as accurate as possible.”


    This is the 3rd search result from the top when I google “zero dark thirty journalism”:


    I hate.
    I hate it all.
    {*head explodes*}

  149. The Original... Paul

    January 31st, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    I will finally be seeing this one on Sunday. Feel like I know the film already, but what the heck. Let’s see which side, if any, I agree with.

  150. Glad to hear this, Paul. Can’t wait to get your wacky opinion on this one. Especially since I was afearin’ that I was becoming the Paul of military-depiction movies, marginalized b/c I always bring an uberspecific, illogical takedown of an otherwise decent film.

    ZDT’s controversy should be so much silliness. Krystal Ball (Yes, that’s her real name.) said it best on MSNBC’s “The Cycle” a few weeks ago. Paraphrasing: “This is a Hollywood movie, not real life; it’s like Allen Iverson said – ‘Practice? We’re talking about practice?’”
    I like her attitude.

    But others aren’t allowing that attitude to prevail. To his credit, Boal tried to explain himself in a reasonable way this past Sunday morning. I give him credit for saying the right things. Mark Bowden also had some useful contributions which allay some of my concerns. The whole ordeal still irks me, and I still see the screenwriter & director (on the fucking cover of TIME magazine now) leveraging this “controversy” to make money while literally everyone but Mouth fails to address the other other (←not a typo) problems with this “reported film.”

    The most recent “This Week” on ABC:


    RADDATZ: A clip from “Zero Dark Thirty,” the critically acclaimed drama about the operation to capture Osama bin Laden, up for five Academy Awards and also sparking controversy because of its depiction of so-called enhanced interrogation.

    **Whoa whoa, lemme stop you right there, Martha. We’re venturing back to AICN set visit territory, apparently; you keep playing the role of Harry Knowles and have Mark Boal play the part of Edgar Wright, or whatever Friend Of The Internet you imagine. But that’s no excuse to play dumb. Have you not *seen* the movie you’re gushing over? “Capture”??? Did you pay any attention to the script? Did you cover what happened May 2011? Did you see the same news as the rest of the world since then? Read any books? Ask Joe Biden anything before or during that debate you moderated? Did you get any information from your 0DARK30 set visits? Your other piece on Bigelow & Boal a few months ago for ABC News? The writer’s right next to you there in the Newseum; ask him about “the operation to capture UBL.” Oh, no, he won’t correct you; y’all are friends. Continue the fluffery.**

    RADDATZ: “It didn’t really happen that way. Did it?”

    **We’re now at the point where journalists, even well-respected well-traveled hardnosed ‘been there’ journalists like Raddatz, are asking mediocre screenwriters about What Really Happened among federal government employees in a war zone. This represents the opposite of journalism. This is un-American. This is death & sadness. Kill me. Kill me now.**

    RADDATZ: “What — what is this movie? What were you trying to do? It is, in so many ways, the first draft of history.”

    BOAL: “For me it was an opportunity to shine a light on the last 10 years and portray the human beings at the center of the hunt for the world’s most dangerous man.”

    RADDATZ: “Mark Bowden?”

    BOWDEN: “You know, to the extent that it helps that story enter the popular imagination and the culture and our history, it’s done, you know, a wonderful service.”

    RADDATZ: “Thank you both very much for joining us this morning. And speaking of service and sacrifice, we now pause to honor our fellow Americans who do just that. This week, the Pentagon released the name of one soldier killed in Afghanistan.”

    **{Lewis Black head wobble of disbelief} Did you seriously just segue from an empty Mark Bowden blurb about a movie to a flippant commentary on the most recent American KIA in OEF? You hear those 2 syllables, “sur – viss,” and that’s the best you can do? You really think the conditions set by the movie 0DARK30 allow for it to be equivalent to your reporting of dead American troops?
    That’s what’s happened. That’s what’s fucking happened. The movie has not necessarily supplanted reality, but it has at least supplemented real reality as an equal-value piece of reality, according to one of our best foreign policy reporters. And that is its greatest sin.
    Mark Bowden is wrong about the movie and its contribution to helping the story of how we shot Usama in the face “enter the popular imagination and the culture and our history.” That story was already alive & well in our culture & cultural imagination; just ask the party people who spontaneously gathered in front of the White House, chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A” into the morning hours as the hit was announced MayDay 2011.
    Ask that dickhead “Mark Owen” how well this story is serving his bank account. (I love ya, Kevin Maurer, but you sold out on that one, bro. Subpar writing, too; well beneath your standards & abilities.)
    This movie version of this story has poisoned it, distorted it into celebrity-centric, award-centric nonsense, turned it into an adequate water-cooler conversation starter that makes unqualified everyday dipshits feel like the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee for 15 minutes when they “engage in the debate,” makes them feel important b/c they saw a fucking movie and now they “know” what torture & our foreign policy is about, b/c Jessica Chastain cried for us and got some award nominations and the director is on the cover of TIME magazine.
    This is unacceptable.
    It’s not that fucking easy. You shouldn’t be allowed to have what most would call “an informed opinion” on this topic unless you were there. And no, reporting on the topic doesn’t count as being there. And no, seeing this movie, this “reported film,” this “document of living history” doesn’t fucking count.**

    The only reason to re-examine & revisit Bigelow’s laughably stupid movies is to compare & see how she borrowed from herself.
    The stupidity of the end of NEAR DARK is well documented;

    the end of BLUE STEEL (incompetent, confused loner cop settles a score),

    the end of POINT BREAK (incompetent, confused loner cop settles a score — artsy arrest, career suicide, and manly-spiritual suicide in Australia),

    the end of STRANGE DAYS (strung out, incompetent, loner ex-cop settles a score, artsy slo-mo revelation),

    the end of THL (strung out, incompetent, loner soldier settles a score – artsy manly-spiritual bewilderment, civilian-life suicide, & leaving the grocery store for OIF),

    and the end of 0DARK30 (strung out, loner CIA officer settles a score, artsy bewilderment & crying on a plane to nowhere)

    are almost exactly the same. Fiction, “nonfiction”… it doesn’t matter with this woman.

  151. I feel like you’re mad at a bunch of people I never met who thought seeing this movie makes them an expert on foreign policy. Whoever that asshole is he must be an idiot no matter if Kathryn Bigelow made the movie or not. He probly thinks he knows all about K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER too. Even if nobody makes movies again he’s still gonna have some stupid shit to say at the hypothetical water cooler. I don’t think it’s fair to put this on Bigelow.

    The quote from Raddatz, “It didn’t really happen that way. Did it?” doesn’t sound like her asking him “about What Really Happened,” it sounds like her trying to satisfy everybody making the assumption you’ve been making, this idea that the other people besides them think this movie is “What Really Happened.” I know you have a reason to be bitter about it because you do know more than most people about the topic. But can’t you see that this is one of those arguments based on assuming that most people are morons? I have not seen one god damn person believing that this movie is more than what it is, but if those people are out there you shouldn’t be worried because everywhere they look you or Raddatz or somebody is gonna be warning them that “it didn’t really happen that way.”

    I think you gotta assume that most functional adults understand that this is a fictional movie account of a complex 10 year top secret operation, based on “real accounts” but filtered through movie-fication and speculation. And you gotta respect that they can interpret it as a work of art and not a historical record. I don’t want them making movies worrying about how it’s gonna affect people who still think THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE is a true story.

  152. But Vern, isn’t that just the problem, that people are, or choose to be, “morons” when it comes to matters like this. Either out of misguided patriotism or a downright fascist view of the world. And Bigelow caters to those people by basing all her PR work ahead of the movie on the fact that she was working closely with the CIA to get the details right. And if her only defence now is that “it’s just a movie”, we need people like Mouth to tell us otherwise – again and again.

  153. Well, shit. Vern’s right & pegsman’s right. I’m mad at the whole totality of the thing, not so much the movie itself. I don’t think people are all idiots. Hell, Leon Panetta himself claims to like this movie; that humors me, actually.
    Not bitter. Not jealous. Just… I want things to be better. I want people to be less lazy. I have that undying idealist streak that doesn’t make sense, doesn’t comport with the other part of me that enjoys all sorts of stupid, violent shit, doesn’t allow for enough nuance & enjoyment when it comes to assessing “based on first hand accounts of actual events” films.

    For some reason Bigelow’s every move (and the media’s every word about her) in this case grates. She’s Tommy Gnosis, getting all the praise, doing a world tour, manipulating people into believing in her brand; that makes me Hedwig in this metaphor — just about the only one who can see that she’s faking the funk.

    I’ll stop tantrum-ing now. Until Paul’s review, at least.

  154. The Original... Paul

    February 1st, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Mouth – I’m the crazy guy who can’t watch “The Godfather”. Hell, you know we always disagree on stuff anyway. (Except “Martha Marcy May Marlene”. That was brilliant.) And you know I love “Thirteen Days” and many similar movies like it.

    What I’m saying is… don’t take whatever I say to heart. I’m not worth it.

  155. The Original... Paul

    February 3rd, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Ok I’ll keep this short, because I don’t think the movie was a) as good as “Argo”, in pretty much any way; and b) worthy the kind of debate that it seems to have caused.

    So here’s Paul keeping both sides happy. I absolutely agree that this movie is, for the most part, very well-made; that Chastain does the absolute best she can with a character that doesn’t seem to be based on any one real-life person, and seems more like a compendium of movie cliches; and that the resolution of the movie kinda gave me goosebumps. At that point, and only at that point, I felt like I was witnessing something akin to a historical moment.

    However, I also agree that the movie is trying to pass off a heck of a lot of what seems to be wild speculation at best, bullshit movie cliches at worst, as something approximating a “true” story, or at least one based on real events. (A problem I didn’t have with “Argo” because of its more playful tone, and actually provided evidence at the end as to exactly what was dramatized and what wasn’t.) But going back to ZD30, I came to this conclusion at three specific points:

    1) When Chastain practically blackmails her asshole bureaucrat boss into giving her “assets” to go on an operation that he deems highly speculative at best. All I can say is that if this is really the state of working relations within the CIA, it’s no bloody wonder it took them ten years to find one man. Absolutely ridiculous.

    2) The moment that Chastain’s friend is killed and Chastain’s reaction is (cue intense stare): “I’m gonna find Osama. And I’m gonna kill him.” Thanks, movie, for clearing up that finding the world’s most wanted terrorist isn’t motivation enough for this woman-against-the-world; what she REALLY needs to spur her into doing her job is a dead friend or two. Glad we cleared that one up!

    And 3) Guy listening to iPod on the way to killing Osama Bin Laden. Erm… riiiiiiiiight.

    See I have almost no knowledge of military procedures, but I’ve read books on the SAS. I’ve seen dramas like “Ultimate Force”. Heck, I’ve read everything Tom Clancy had written (up to about “The Bear and the Rabbit”. I think I gave up on him at that point.) And one thing that instantly came to mind when I was watching the iPod scene is a description, in one of the books I read, of how the British SAS prepare for excursions behind enemy lines. One of the things they do is, they pack EVERYTHING in exactly its right place, weighing it to the gram. (This is fifty or sixty kilos of equipment.) They do this so that they can get to anything they need – nav stuff, comms stuff, etc – under fire if necessary. They get rid of anything the enemy could use for information apart from their ID tags – so no mobile phones, etc, only encrypted military comms units.

    So the SAS do all of that, and yet this American crack military team are bringing along fucking iPods? Seriously?

    Now you might say, no big deal, that’s just one small thing. Except it had me openly questioning the much bigger things – like for example how the heck did a helicopter that’s not under fire end up making a crash landing in a yard of farm animals. Or would a trained soldier really leave a mortally wounded woman who’s the wife of one of his targets to “bleed out”, and could he be confident how serious her wound was, or that she wouldn’t be able to alert other people? And just how did they not “breach” that first door anyway? Is that kind of failure routine, or is the guy setting the charges just incompetent? Because it seems to me like a gigantic bang that doesn’t actually get rid of the door it’s supposed to get rid of might pose a few problems for the person who sets it.

    Oh, and one more small matter… the matter of the unarmed suburbanites who walk up to the source of gunfire and straight into the sights of a plainly visible sniper. As opposed to, say, running as hard as they can in the opposite direction. Yeah…

    I get the feeling that this is one of those movies that time will not be kind to. The kind that gets lots of critical plaudits early on, but when people look back on it, they’ll say: “Well it was kinda dumb, and did you believe that Maya character for one second?” It’ll be popular for as long as its subject matter is considered controversial, but then it’ll be justly forgotten as a well-made but ultimately failed attempt to dramatise a huge moment in history.

    In short – I didn’t hate it, I thought it was largely well-made, but I didn’t think there was much substance to it, and it doesn’t hold a candle to “Argo”. Or “Thirteen Days”, which is a far, far superior film that tries and succeeds in doing something that ZD30 fails at – dramatically reconstructing a major historical event using a “realistic” tone, and making it believable.

  156. The Original... Paul

    February 3rd, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Just gone over some other comments that I’d like to address:


    “-Not sure if listening to an iPod while flying for the first time ever into Pakistan on an untested aviation asset (advanced radar-dampening, silent Blackhawk) is a go. That’s not even allowed on a 747 during takeoff. It sure as fuck isn’t professional. I listened to an iPod, sometimes even jerry-rigged an iPod to a MRAP or HMMWV’s sound system, during patrols & admin runs, but never during kill/capture missions. I’d slap the fuck out of a guy if I catch him listening to country music en route to Ace of Spades’ compound in Pakistan. Unprofessional.”

    But would it even be on the plane in the first place? Honestly it would surprise me if a marine would take his wedding ring on a mission like this, let alone a freaking iPod.

    Fully reading your post is an eye-opener though. I thought the seals seemed kinda “casual” but you’re right, where was the rehersing for the mission?


    “If Bigelow really means that, I have a rhetorical question for her: Are audiences not supposed to cheer at the end of the film, when we get bin Laden? They cheered in the theater where I watched it.”

    They were absolutely silent in the cinema where I did. I’ll give the film this: that was one moment that absolutely worked. Actually a pretty stunning moment. The rest of it, not so much.


    “I loved the movie and don’t mind in the slightest that it’s an extremely iffy history lesson. But they should just embrace that they’ve made a damn fine thriller and stop trying to argue that it’s some kind of enlightened attempt to tell the public the truth.”

    Well obviously I did mind that it was “iffy”, but I at least expected it to work as a dramatisation (eg, where you change things, make them plausible. I think this film failed there.) I can’t give you the “thrilller” part either. It felt very long. REALLY long. The problems with Chastain’s character undercut the movie here – even in a movie with these kinds of stakes (you might say especially in a movie with these kinds of stakes), I want the protagonist to be somebody I can root for. This movie didn’t give me that.

  157. So Paul, are you saying they should’ve added a guy shooting down the helicopter to make it more realistic?

  158. The Original... Paul

    February 3rd, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Vern – honestly I don’t know if what was in the movie even happened in real life. I could look it up (as a point of comparison, the first thing I did after seeing “Argo” was google the subject matter. Not here.) My objection is that the MOVIE makes it look implausible. That’s my biggest problem with the film… it’s trying so hard to be “factual” when parts of it plainly aren’t, that even in the parts that probably do come from real life, it just comes across as insincere. I can’t invest in it if I don’t believe in it. I don’t know, maybe if I’d gone into this one completely unspoiled then I’d have a much less sceptical mindset. Maybe Mouth ruined this one for me. **Glares at Mouth.**

    But honestly, even if I’d gone into it in a completely open frame of mind – as I tried to do, although honestly I don’t think I succeeded, I’d just heard too much stuff about it – I would still have had some pretty major problems with the main character’s “arc”. At times the movie went WAY too far into “one woman against the system” territory, which is a gigantic movie cliche that absolutely does not work in this type of film.

    And it brought it on itself! Just look at the way “Argo” handles news clips, for example, versus the way “ZD30” does. “Argo”‘s use of the news is incredibly subtle and effective – heck I could write several paragraphs on that alone, I think – but the main thing is accomplishes is to build up sympathy for the hostages while never, at the same time, letting us forget that the people trying to find them actually have very good reason to be angry with America. Now compare that to the London bombing footage that’s used in “ZD30”. Its only function, apart from pure exposition, is to lead into a bizarre scene where a CIA boss gives a yelled “Do your jobs! People are dying!” speech. (While not actually offering them any information / help. Just yelling at them. Presumably going for the “Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross” Oscar nomination. That’s the only reason I can think they’d put this totally implausible scene into the movie instead of relying on the strengths of the actors to convey desperation / weariness.)

    Now while I’m not saying “Argo” was innocent of this – it was guilty of a lot of “manufactured drama” towards the end, I suspect, although most of it was so well-justified that it didn’t really bother me – the fact is, ZD30 starts off playing clips of people making phone calls from the Twin Towers and the hijacked aeroplanes. You start your film like that, you better be damn well prepared to back it up and make it look airtight when it comes to the kind of scrutiny that, say, Mouth brings to it. This film couldn’t even convince ME it was real, and I know very little about the subject matter.

    Damn, guys, I’m starting to worry here. I don’t want this to be the year of the “ok” or the “pretty good”. Not after last year.

  159. That all sounds coherent & reasonable, Paul, but you don’t need to use the doubts from the iPod nonsense to disparage all of the movie’s raid sequence. Everyone else is impressed by it, and most of it seemed believable enough to me, including breach techniques, breach failures, room-clearing, small team movements, NODs & light discipline, SSE, even the idiotically curious LNs walking slowly toward the terp & the exasperated sniper outside. Been there, seen all that, and the movie did pretty well in depicting it (my very minor complaints about radio chatter & the reported power outage excepted).

    There are few things worse than being at the back end of a stack for 25 seconds that feels like 25 years, partly exposed & providing 6 o’clock security for 3 other guys, hoping they remember to backtap or lean into you as the signal to move to their 12 o’clock, through a big scary door that hides whoknowswhat, and then the point man tells you that the goddamn breach didn’t work right. If I wanted to get macho-Freudian here, I’d say it’s like laying down with your prom date, stripping down, and then she suddenly tells you she has the Herps. You gotta completely reverse your direction, change your plan, and, for a brief sec within the disappointing moment before you scramble away to the next potential conquest, be relieved you didn’t go through that particular door.

    Addressing Paul’s other questions:

    -Can’t comment much on the stealth-Blackhawk crash, but it seemed accurate IAW reporting & pics. The only hard landing I’ve ever had was when I was co-flying the bird myself. In training. (It was the mechanics’ fault.)
    First thing they teach you is that, from the instant a helicopter is assembled, the only thing she is trying to do is kill you. She wants you to crash. And buildings, blades, & breezes do weird things with air molecules during hovering & descent movements.

    -I think leaving everyone who wasn’t Osama (like the bleeding woman Paul mentions) was b/c UBL was the only stated enemy with whom we are officially at war. P-stan would have a shit-fit if we snatched up one of her lawful citizens, on her sovereign soil, without at least first having legally declared war on some organization the EPW/EKIA leads/operates. That, and more bodies would have slowed down the exfil process and weighed down the exfil birds.

    -Which brings us to the iPod issue again. I don’t think it’s in 0DARK30, but in SEAL TEAM 6: THE HUNT FOR OBL, iIrc, there’s a nifty little briefing scene where the SEALs are instructed to wear sanitized uniforms
    (no identifying items or sensitive data, like in notebooks, wedding rings, trinkets, SPARTAN-style keychains with addresses printed on them, etc.)
    and instructed, “If we get caught up, we fight our way out. If you get captured, you’re stupid.”
    Something to that effect. That’s just a colorful reminder that, in the event of capture, you don’t talk. You pretend you don’t know why you’re there or how or who. Standard shit for ops set out of the reach of a FOB or embassy.

    And if you have a personal iPod, well, I don’t think that could be traced. Those digital files shouldn’t have a signature on them that can be tracked to a specific location or telltale download hardware. Unless you had stored on there “Voice Memos,” as can be made & found on one’s iTunes if transferred from an iPhone/iPad. Or if you have the University of Kentucky fight song on there, so whoever gets a hold of the iPod deduces that you went to Kentucky or whatever. Or if you have a playlist titled “Jessica” or whatever, which your captors figure out is the name of your wife, which they use to fuck with your head during interrogation or match up with your last name to make threats against her back home.

    So you don’t bring that shit with you into P-stan on a mission on which POTUS himself is getting live updates, a mission you’ve been rehearsing & perfecting for months ahead of time (except not in this movie). Any senior NCO who spotted that would lose his shit. In my opinion.

    Guys also supposedly dozed during the inbound flight. This information seems to surprise civilians and legs (non-airborne-qualified military personnel). Personally, I don’t sleep on small helicopters (Sleeping on longer Chinook flights is fine; those are practically airbuses.) and don’t let my subordinates sleep on choppers, b/c you always want to be ready for a crash and b/c I like to listen in on the command net & FIRES net while I’ve got the bird’s advanced comms signal at my disposal. And using the buttstock of your weapon as a pillow is a bad move.
    But, other than maybe the excitement factor of traveling so far into P-stan turf while the White House tracks you in real time
    (Remember how giddy & nervous the CIA officer was when she mentioned that POTUS himself *might* be receiving updates during her would-have-been meeting at FOB Chapman? Everyone gets a little nervous when you know the The Brass is listening in on your op – not b/c you’re scared, but b/c it represents a huge opportunity to make a good impression, which means a promotion, which means more money, more freedom, and less of a need to kiss brass ass in the future.),
    I would say it makes sense some of the guys napped & relaxed on the way into Neptune Spear’s OBJ. I sleep every chance I can get in the field, except on helicopters.

    But no iPods. That’s one more unnecessary cord, one more unnecessary pocket bulge, and like 2 more unnecessary ounces for your load. I didn’t measure stuff “to the gram” when I loaded my IOTV, pouches, pockets, & assault pack, like what Paul mentioned above, but on surgical/precision missions where I would be facing resistance & possibly killing people in a low-visibility setting, I measured it to the precise number of batteries, pens, rubber bands, flexicuffs, tracer bullets vs. standard bullets ratio, ounces of water, ounces of hand sanitizer, etc.. No fucking iPods. Unprofessional.

    “[T]he fact is, ZD30 starts off playing clips of people making phone calls from the Twin Towers and the hijacked aeroplanes. You start your film like that, you better be damn well prepared to back it up and make it look airtight…”
    Yup. Exactly.

  160. Well, I expect that out of you Paul, but the weird things is I’ve seen other people make the ARGO comparison too and I just don’t think I live on the same planet as you guys. ARGO is a light weight, fun but draggy in the middle made up comedy thriller based on a true anecdote. It is not even remotely somewhat mildly close to being anywhere near in the same league as ZERO DARK THIRTY as far as thoughtfulness, filmatism, tone, tension, or quality of wigs. I would be mad that Affleck got Hollywood to kiss his ass for making a movie kissing Hollywood’s ass, but luckily he is a very talented director who will surely make many way better movies in the future.

  161. Paul: I have not seen this movie and have no plans to for the foreseeable future. My lack of enthusiasm for THE HURT LOCKER and Mouth’s systematic takedown have seen to that. You meant to address Mr. Subtlety.

  162. The Original... Paul

    February 4th, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Vern – I get that. Honestly, we’ve agreed on so many movies recently, I think a bust-up might’ve been inevitable. :) That said, this is absolutely one of the cases where I expected to be very much on your side, not Mouth’s, and was genuinely surprised when I found myself critiquing the movie while watching it.

    I think “Argo” is a bad comparison, to be honest. Obviously I liked it a lot more than you did, but regardless, besides being a historical drama, the two films are like chalk and cheese. In just about every possible way they’re entirely different beasts. I think a much better comparison is “Thirteen Days”, which is one of my favorite films. To me, ZD30 can’t stand that comparison.

    That said, it’s still a good movie. I don’t feel anything like as much dislike for it as Mouth, maybe because I didn’t come into it with the kind of personal attachment to the subject matter that he did. I don’t hate this movie and I certainly don’t share the complaints by some of the other commentators regarding Chastain’s performance.

    It’s a good movie. There are just too many things in it that I don’t believe for my to consider it a great one.

  163. The Original... Paul

    February 4th, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Also Mr M and Mr S – sorry for confusing you guys (again).

    I will say this for the movie – it’s almost worth seeing for the moment near the end where OBL gets killed. That is a genuinely great moment IMO.

  164. Jeez, am I the only one who though both ARGO and ZD30 were great? Honestly, they were my 1 and 2 choices for best films of 2012. Seems like I might be able to get less caught up in questions about their accuracy to reality than most folks, and just enjoy them on their own level. I just don’t really expect to go to Hollywood movies and be told about objective reality. Movies aren’t made for depicting reality — if I want to know the truth (and I do!) there’s an actual reality for me to examine. As movies, I found both of them phenomenally riveting entertainment (albeit in very different ways) and care not an iota how much they really have to teach us about history.

    Paul — To my mind, the best comparison to ZD30 in terms of structure might be ZODIAC — an epic, rambling story about an investigation with a series of shifting, somewhat opaque protagonists and an episodic format. It doesn’t give you exactly the same notes as a conventional thriller, so maybe it’s one of those things that either works for your sensibilities or doesn’t. It’s trying to do something different (I mean, it’s not like the filmmakers never noticed that Maya’s character remains frustratingly ambiguous) but maybe it just isn’t a flavor you like.

  165. The Original... Paul

    February 9th, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Mr Subtlety – I’ve been very harsh on ZD30 here despite the fact that I think that, in many ways, it’s a brilliant movie. I loved the scoring of it. I haver one major sticking point, but unfortunately that one point is a fairly major one.

    And the “Zodiac” comparison is a good one.

    Regarding this though: “I just don’t really expect to go to Hollywood movies and be told about objective reality.”

    This is how the film was advertised over here on the online listings:

    “After the atrocities of 9/11, the US services spend a decade searching for the culprit, Osama Bin Laden. This is how they finally got him.”

    With this, and the media coverage Mouth cites, and the “real life” scenes in the movie itself (the news footage, 9/11 phone calls, etc), and (most importantly) the lack of scenes like the one in “Argo” at the end where they show photos and newspaper cuttings from the actual events the movie is based on to make clear exactly what’s real and what isn’t… I don’t buy the “movies aren’t real” argument. Not here. Not the way this one is set up and marketed. I think ZD30 explicitly sets up a higher standard of “realism” than most movies do, and it’s valid criticism to expect the movie to hold itself to that standard, and to fault it when it doesn’t.

    Again – I’m not saying this is a bad film. It’s a good film. But it’s not ultimately a successful one.

  166. The Original... Paul

    February 9th, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    And if anybody thinks I’m really being too harsh here, I’m seriously considering going to see “Movie 43” next week. Don’t think I’ve seen an absolute flat-out unredeemable shitfest of a movie in the cinema since “Buried”, but Roger Ebert compares “Movie 43” unfavourably to “Freddie Got Fingered”. It’s also running at 5% on “Rotten Tomatoes”. I think seeing something that bad may be good for me. Teach me to be a bit more appreciative of movies like ZD30, where there’s a lot of good on display but also a few major flaws.

    If I do it (I will if I can get a friend to come along for moral support, otherwise I’ll probably skip it) I’ll post something in the forums.

  167. Paul — can you cite an example of another movie which met the standards of journalistic accuracy you would have liked to see from ZD30? I’m just not sure I can. Seems to me like movies are inherently bound to be artificial bullshit by their very nature. I mean, did you just want a documentary? Even those are crammed with artifice and shortcuts, although they might be slightly better suited to telling some version of objective truth. But as far as I’m concerned, the basic storytelling structure that must occur to make a narrative, 2ish hour movie negates any possibility of the kind of truthfulness you’re looking for.

  168. Off the top of my head, movies that could be interpreted or mistaken (in a good, honest, rewarding way) as real life or which are based on something like an account of real life and inoffensively & honestly live up to the expectations of filmic adaptation established by that account:


    THE IMPOSTER (2012)


    Le fils (THE SON) (2002)
    L’enfant (THE CHILD) (2005)

    Dao ma zei (THE HORSE THIEF) (1986)

    Nannerl, la soeur de Mozart (MOZART’S SISTER) (2010)


    THE INSIDER (1999)

    Joyeux Noël (MERRY CHRISTMAS) (2005)

    FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS (1998) — possibly the most honest (& accurate?) account/interpretation of a piece of journalism ever

    THE BEAST (aka THE BEAST OF WAR) (1988) – based on fiction, set during a war in Afghanistan (I know, that’s almost a redundancy now.), swaps Russian language for English, and liberally over-dramatizes some of the family/revenge elements in the midst of a marvelously exciting tank-based action movie, yet I can’t fault it for lack of realism or failure to be journalistic because A) it doesn’t claim to be journalistic and B) its commitment to & achievement in the realm of believable realness is undeniable. Great movie that covers some of the same ground (literally) and some similar themes as those explored in 0DARK30. Highly, highly recommended, even if you must use a “compare-n-contrast to the latest Bigelows” impulse as an excuse to see/rewatch it.

  169. So how does The Passion of the Christ meet Paul’s standards of journalistic accuracy? I can’t even begin to wrap my head around that.

  170. Gibson’s movie is meticulously researched, adherent to the source text, and brilliant & thorough in its re-creation of what we know of the historical setting, all flawlessly executed with minimal subjective editorial intrusions.

    You can argue whether it’s based on either a weird collection of fantasy oral histories translated & mistranslated through the centuries or a Gospel, but, largely due to its journalistic accuracy in my opinion, it’s a masterpiece.

  171. Whatever it is, it ultimately spirals down into torture porn for Christians.

  172. Jesus, you really blew any argument against ZD30 you’ve ever had by mentioning “journalistic accuracy” and PASSION OF THE CHRIST together.

  173. Ha ha, what the hell, Mouth? Are you fucking with us? More than usual, I mean.

  174. I too think that for what it is, The Passion of The Christ is a well made movie

    I mean, people do realize that real life crucifixions were probably really fucking brutal right? shouldn’t the movie be respected for not sugarcoating anything and depicting a horrible way to die as a horrible way to die?

    to me it’s like someone calling Saving Private Ryan “war porn” for depicting graphic violence during the opening D day section

  175. So the scene where Jesus invents the table was the result of journalism, not insanity?

    I have to admit I’m kind of disappointed.

  176. Yeah, even if you take the Bible as an historically accurate document* I don’t think Gibson’s movie qualifies as journalistic. I was actually pretty surprised by how much the movie shifts the blame for Jesus’ death onto the Jews while going out of it’s way to exonerate the Romans from any wrong doing (they were just doing their jobs!) and this is coming from someone that went to Catholic school for 12 years. I suppose it’s possible that crazy ol’ Mel’s movie was actually closer to the events as depicted in the Bible than the version I was taught since (like most people raised Catholic) I haven’t actually read it, so I’m not really in a position to say. Either way there’s just way too much weird shit in there that definitely wasn’t in the Bible – like Jesus inventing the table and Satan wandering around in the crowd. I realise the Satan thing was supposed to be showing us what was going on in Jesus’ head but since he didn’t actually communicate that to anyone it’d have to be an assumption on Mel’s part. Not journalistic IMHO.

    I agree it was an excellent movie, although having had this stuff shoved down my throat for years kinda hinders my ability to appreciate it to an extent.

    *I don’t think I really need to explain this asterisk do I?

  177. To me, the table-inventing scene was the heart of the movie. It really makes you think about the Last Supper in a whole new light. Jesus’ true legacy was not the Apostles he dined with, who would begin the process of spreading his message to billions of people worldwide, but the revolutionary surface they were dining on. Not everybody believes in Christianity, but everyone uses a table.

  178. That’s a good point Mr. M, the movie implies that Jesus must have built the last supper table since he invented it, just goes to show what an awesome hands-on kinda guy he was. Either that or it’d already caught on (the table-inventing scene was a flashback wasn’t it?) and everybody was already using them at that point. In which case you’d expect Jesus to be rich and famous like some kind of early Mark Zuckerberg and would have had enough juice to get himself out of trouble. Although I suppose patent laws weren’t very mature by that point and Jesus wasn’t the type of dude to be suing people for ripping him off anyway.

    Also, table -> desk -> desktop PC -> worldwide computer revolution -> eventual technological singularity -> human colonisation of the universe. All down to Jesus.

  179. Just responding to Mr. Subtlety’s post about whether it’s possible to achieve a full, not-bullshit-stuffed story into a 2ish hour movie timeframe. Don’t get hung up on one title in my little list. You could plug in other “based on real life” movies for comparison’s sake, like MARGIN CALL or LINCOLN, maybe great movies like THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY or SERGEANT YORK or AMADEUS or even shitty movies like PRIVATE PARTS or MAN ON THE MOON.

    All movies based on some account of real life, with lots of research & period detail going into the productions for the purpose of achieving suspension of disbelief & suggesting a realistic accounts of history, mostly striving for a truth that withstands scrutiny instead of a limited, subjective account of truth.
    And all have their limitations, choices that clearly separate them from documentaries or filmic textbooks. But their (& their filmatists’) [modest] pretensions to accuracy & thoroughness don’t offensively exceed the limited believable realism of the movies themselves, and, with the possible exception of MARGIN CALL, none of those movies’ plots occurred in the midst of the ongoing present of the events depicted, elbowing their way into “history” and the cover of TIME magazine & every political website/show while superior sources of learning & shaping that history are readily available now as we breathe. “Too soon,” in other words.

    No one’s poking holes in MARGIN CALL for not being “a reported film,” a definitive, honest telling of first hand accounts, “living history.” It never claimed to be. But it works as such, to an extent, and that’s awesome; that’s its strength. No one’s faulting it for an elision of some crucial societal aspect of the stock market September 2008 or for some dishonest narrative/dialogue compression of real conversations or of characters/references who reflect real-life figures from Lehmann Brothers, JP Morgan, AIG, SEC, NYSE or whatever. Rather, we take what the film offers and apply it to a sense of understanding, in conjunction with what we know now – based on what was discovered/known by reporters, whistleblowers, and current defendants in massive financial fraud cases – so that we are entertained, intrigued, and somewhat educated in the process. I’m like, “Aha, so *that’s* what the inside of an executive boardroom maybe looked & sounded like during an emergency meeting at 3 a.m. when they decided to lie to customers & sell toxic financial products later that day with the knowledge that they are destroying the worldwide economy. I read about this in the papers, but until now I never got a sense of how exactly that happened. Now I have an idea. Neat.”

    You can get the same sense, the same informative helpfulness of [secret?] insiders’ accounts, from watching 0DARK30 — “Aha, so *that’s* what a CIA station chief’s office in Pakistan kinda looks like. And that’s what a spec-ops night raid sorta looks like. Neat.” — but that movie & its marketing insists that it is “journalistic,” which calls for a different standard, a standard I don’t think it meets in the most crucial aspects of the story. This bothers me. But my opinion is very much in the minority.
    THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, however, meets this standard, in my opinion. It follows almost word for word what’s in the source text — supposedly a factual, infallible book, augmented by various clergymen’s scholarly contributions & interpretations that are just as valid, according to believers like Gibson, so I allow for it to be considered a historical document for these purposes (It’s just as believable as the word of “Mark Owen” or “redacted” in the case of researching Operation Neptune Spear.) – and it brought together the work of archaeologists, historians, scholars, linguists, and other subject matter experts in order to make the most faithful adaptation of the source text possible.

    And I can’t detect any big offensive glaring mistakes, any spots where it fucks it up, where it doesn’t live up to its claims of thoroughness, its pretensions. Now that’s what I call “a reported film.”

    Yes, there are slo-mo flourishes, colorful hallucinatory touches, a questionable suggestion that Jesus’s descendants should still be receiving patent/royalty checks every time we eat off a flat wooden surface, and subjective editing choices, but it still works as a full, near-definitive account of a version of a piece of reported truth & history, same as MARGIN CALL or LINCOLN.

  180. So what you’re saying is that MARGIN CALL is more journalistic that 0DARK30 because it doesn’t claim to be journalistic? I don’t see how claims made by the makers of a movie change the actual content of a movie. It is what it is, the events depicted are either accurate or they aren’t – what difference does the marketing make? That argument makes about as much sense as that lady that tried to sue the producers of DRIVE because she thought the trailer was misleading.

    “It follows almost word for word what’s in the source text — supposedly a factual, infallible book, augmented by various clergymen’s scholarly contributions & interpretations that are just as valid, according to believers like Gibson, so I allow for it to be considered a historical document for these purposes”

    – So you allow for it to be considered a historical document on someone’s say so despite the fact that it’s a story about a supernatural entity and therefore patently untrue? OK fine then from now on I would like you to consider The Lord of the Rings a historical document on my say so, therefore making Jackson’s trilogy journalistic by your own standards.

  181. Mouth, It still sounds like you’re criticising the marketing campaign instead of the movie. You’re punishing the movie for being too believable, like it crosses some arbitrary line of plausibility that movies are not supposed to cross. To me the inclusion of 9/11 footage doesn’t demand that the events are depicted with 100% factual accuracy, but that they will be treated with the seriousness and gravity they deserve, which they are. As for the movie “elbowing it’s way into history”, that ship done sailed a long time ago. In the war between history and pop culture, pop culture always wins. That’s why people still believe that vikings wore horned helmets and ninjas wore black.

    And I have to believe you are trolling putting PASSION at the top of your list. Putting aside the fact that it’s an adaptation of a work of fiction and not the actual historical records of the crucifixion, it’s also riddled with historical inaccuracies (Roman soldiers communicating in eccleseastical Latin, etc) and flourishes of Gibson’s own imagination. You really think that it strives for something beyond a “limited, subjective account of truth”? That it’s clearly an expression of Gibson’s own beliefs is what makes it so interesting to me.

  182. The Original... Paul

    February 11th, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    CrustaceanHate – I was the one who made the criticism you ascribe to Mouth, and my criticism is that it sets itself out as “fact” from the get-go, but that the facts in it aren’t believable. Not sure where “Passion of the Christ” comes into it though. It’s not a movie I’d ever go out of my way to watch, but my understasnding of it is that it’s exactly what you say – an expression of Gibson’s own beliefs. How accurate that description is I don’t know, because I haven’t seen it, but it’s based on the damn BIBLE. Even if one takes the history as being largely accurate (and I don’t), what you “take from” a religious text is always subjective. A free-loving “hippie” and a homophobic religious-right evangelist might both namedrop Jesus, but I doubt they have similar ideas about how to follow Christian tenets.

    And yes, the marketing campaign is part of my criticism of ZD30, but so is the PRESENTATION OF THE GODDAMN MOVIE. It explicitly sets its fictional narrative against a backdrop of real events from the start, juxtaposing the two. A lot of people have criticised movies like “Saving Private Ryan” for playing fast-and-loose with the facts in something of an underhand way. (I cannot stress this enough: my war-film-loving friend absolutely hates “Saving Private Ryan” for its depictions of the Americans, and its comparative depiction – or lack thereof – of the British.) Why should ZD30 get a pass? I’m not disputing what works in the film (and a lot does work); but the film, the marketing, the presentation, all set a high bar for the film to clear. And I would argue that it doesn’t do so.

  183. Sorry for misattributing that criticism. Honestly if you didn’t find it believable then you didn’t find it believable, there’s nothing to discuss, but it never really occurred to me that I should consider ZD30 as more truthful than I would any other movie that touts itself as “Based on a True Story”. I just thought it was an engrossing thriller. But then I really enjoyed the THE HURT LOCKER too, even though I know enough about the military to know that a great deal of the film is total bullshit.

  184. Here’s a new article that includes a firsthand perspective of the raid. A bit lengthy, but an interesting read just the same:

  185. The original Paul

    February 12th, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Well, it’s set. Thursday evening. I am going to see what many people are already calling the worst movie ever made. The film that Roger Ebert compared unfavourably to “Freddy Got Fingered”. In the cinema. For money. With a friend who enjoys bad movies (although I get the feeling that this one might change his mind).

    Anybody who loved “Young Adult” or the ending of “Django Unchained” or “Blade 2” or “Prometheus” or “The Dark Knight Rises” or “The Tournament” or “Zero Dark Thirty” or “Lord of the Rings” or ANY of the other much-loved movies that I gave mixed reviews to, this is where you get your revenge.

    “Movie 43”. Thursday night. I will write a review in the forums. And I give you my word, right now, that I will describe my feelings while watching this movie as honestly as my limited talents of penmanship will allow me to do. It will be cathartic.

    Because there is no fucking way that this year’s “Chris Nolan” movie will be at the top of my “Worst movie of 2013” list, like it was last year. This year, I’m taking time out to see a REAL stinker. I’m expecting another “Buried” here. Another “Bad Boys 2”. The purpose of this trip is to experience the worst of movies so I can better appreciate the best of them.

    Hope you enjoy revelling in my pain, guys.

  186. Can’t be worse than PROJECT X. I would even go so far and predict that it’s pretty funny, but you know, critics aren’t allowed to laugh about penis jokes in public.

  187. You are part of the problem, Paul.

  188. Paul— You make it sound as if you were Christopher Columbus, about to cross the Atlantic, boldly & manfully in search of a New World.

    Hey, can I be a co-captain?… Dibs on the Santa Maria!

  189. Amazing Larry – that’s kind of how I feel right now. I don’t think I’ve ever gone into a truly iredeemable movie before, while knowing in advance just how bad it was likely to be. I mean, even “Buried” had positive reviews before I went to see it – heck that’s WHY I went to see it. (I now want to find those reviewers and shoot them repeatedly in the face with a pneumatic nailgun… but that’s a project for another day.) “Movie 43”, on the other hand… if there are any positive comments out there, I can’t say that I’ve seen them. So this is genuinely exploring uncharted territory for me. I have never before gone to see a film because of how bad I’d heard it was.

    Anyway, I’ve removed all sharp items from my pockets, got rid of my cyanide pills, and am wearing clothes that are light enough to not support the weight of a human being wrapped around the neck. Think I’ve made all the preparations that I need to before this movie starts.

    Crustacean – I know, I know. Sometimes you have to do bad things for good reasons. At least I didn’t go see the “Total Recall” remake.

    Two and a half hours to go. Yay.

  190. once again guys, I have to ask, is the shit about to hit the fan? the situation in Syria only gets worse and worse, you can laugh all you want but it looks like a major war is about to break out


  191. And the most scary thing about it is that once again USA, NATO and EU have come to a conclusion before the UN observers are finished with their inspection. Why should we believe that this isn’t Iraq and Libya all over again?

  192. so, I finally watched this movie myself and man, great movie, especially the raid on Bin Laden’s compound, that’s gotta be one of the most tense movie sequence I’ve seen in a quite a while, I felt like I was there

    and nothing about this movie struck me as “pro-torture”, the poor sad sack at the start is brutalized so bad you can’t help but feel sorry for him, see him as an actual human being who fell on the wrong side of history and not just a stereotypical terrorist villian

    and after all that torture I don’t see anything about it that led directly to Osama’s capture, it seems to be saying it didn’t work, so Maya had to get creative, am I wrong?

  193. I guess I was a little late to this party, oh well, carry on then chaps

  194. (whispers) Griff, we hear you buddy. We don’t want to wake Mouth up, that’s all.

  195. Mouth is busy at the moment. So if you want to discuss this movie in peace, now’s the time.

  196. The Original... Paul

    November 27th, 2014 at 2:28 am

    I can be your Mouth!

    (Yeah, I know it’s a month and a half too damn late but I just had to get that line in there.)

  197. What if I told you Kathryn Bigelow made my favorite movie of 2014?

    It’s a 3 minute docartoonamentary and charity websight experience.

  198. Seriously, y’all should just bang and get that shit over with.

  199. It was always fated that counterterror operations in central Africa would bring Kathryn & me together at last.

  200. Did anyone see Kathryn Bigelow on THE DAILY SHOW Tuesday night? After a segment about the torture debate in the Senate Stewart asked her if CIA lied to her when she made ZERO DARK THIRTY. She answered; “Good question…eh…it’s complicated.” So I guess we now have the answer to the question we’ve been debating for a while now. The movie IS meant to be pro-torture.

  201. Our city of Sydney took a hit last night. This changes everything.

  202. No it’s NOT meant to be pro-torture, you moron. The point isn’t whether or not the CIA lied to her; the point is what her and Boal chose to depict in their work of dramatic historical fiction ABOUT the CIA, the hunt for Bin Laden, and the torture program. They knew full well going into it the CIA was probably not going to give them the whole truth.

  203. I was wondering how our Aussie friends were doing through all of this. There’s nothing to say except it sucks and I’m glad you’re okay.

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