This time of year can be frustrating for film fans. Critics and film journalists able to see films early write argument pieces for movies general film fans haven’t seen yet, from This is 40 and Django Unchained to The Hobbit (which, at least, opens Friday) and Zero Dark Thirty.
A particular think piece posted to The American Prospect, for example, discusses director Kathryn Bigelow’s approach to warterboarding and torture-driven investigative techniques as the military tracked Osama Bin Laden. But it’s such a detailed read that audience members are going to want to bookmark it and revisit it after you’ve had a chance to absorb ZDT and reach your own conclusions.
Film critic Tom Carson addressed the concerns – leveled, mostly, by people who haven’t yet seen the movie – that Bigelow’s drama was pro-torture. The movie does not shy away from the use of torture by our military to get prisoners to talk about Bin Laden’s possible location. Jason Clarke’s bullish, aggressive investigator employs vicious techniques to manipulate his subjects, and the scenes are as uncomfortable as is necessary. But as Carson writes, “Depicting torture as an effective intelligence tool isn't the same as endorsing it by a long shot.”
This will be an issue that plagues Zero Dark Thirty as it plays for wider audiences. The torture scenes, I’d argue, are essential to the story Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal are telling, and omitting them could be considered more offensive. But the conversation is out there, even before the movie has opened. It will be interesting to see which side of the argument audiences embrace once they are able to see ZDT with their own eyes.
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