That really should be the main takeaway from Zero Dark Thirty: That good detective work can bring fruitful results -- and that torture is wrong. Eight years of torture -- no bin Laden. Two years of detective work -- boom! Bin Laden!
My concern about films like Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker is that they might set back civilian-military relations by giving people a false understanding of the struggles of U.S. troops and the mechanics of U.S. national security.
The answers given by Bigelow and Boal to justify the normalizing of torture in Zero Dark Thirty have been vain, wheedling, and dodgy. They are a clever pair of filmmakers, without political or moral depth, but here, perhaps more than they realized, they were playing with fire.
Why aren't film director Kathryn Bigelow's claimed government sources, including employees of the CIA, in jail like Pfc. Bradley Manning? Or, at the very least, being investigated for their role in one of the most damaging leaks of national security information in U.S. history?
The anti-Zero Dark Thirty camp indicates in their statements that they have little awareness of the principles of irony, catharsis, and sublimation that dramatizations use to separate depiction of heinous activities from endorsement of them.
When we talk about torture "working" -- in the context of al Qaeda, for instance -- we presumably mean successfully extracting accurate information. But that's not what torture is about, and never has been.
Zero Dark Thirty works as a crime procedural, but its irresponsible, destructive, dishonest stance on torture absolutely ruined it for me, and I feel Zero Dark Thirty should not be on any best-of-the-year lists, nor is it deserving of Oscar consideration.
Zero Dark Thirty was nominated for Best Picture. Mark Boal, the screenwriter, was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Jessica Chastain was nominated for Best Actress, so it seems the only individual successfully swiftboated this year was director Kathryn Bigelow.
I'm going to advocate that Oscar bloggers, much like starting pitchers, should be on rotation with mandatory rest years in-between. But before I start my online petition, I figured I'd muse on today's Oscar nominations from my completely uninformed point of view.
Do yourself a favor, and don't go see Zero Dark Thirty. Don't encourage film-making that at best offers ambiguity about torture, and at worst endorses it. Spend the two and a half hours and the $10 on something more valuable, and moral.
As to the DGA awards, Hooper joins Steven Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow, Ang Lee, and Ben Affleck for this honor. Omitted were Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, and most serious, a favorite: David O. Russell.