Hey, UK readers, planning on seeing Zero Dark Thirty with a couple of friends this weekend? Of course, you'll be aware it's an Oscar frontrunner. Of course, you'll be aware it's from the director of Hurt Locker, and yes, of course you'll be aware it stars Jessica Chastain and is about the 10 year hunt for Obama Bin Laden. But are you aware of the storm brewing across the pond? If not, here's a guide to the intense criticism the movie has faced in recent weeks.
Political points-scoring began in mid-to-late 2012, when some critics of the Obama Administration accused director Kathryn Bigelow and Sony Pictures of releasing the film in October so that it would support the re-election of President Obama - i.e, the man who gave the command to raid the complex in which Bin Laden was eventually killed. Sony denied the whole thing, stating that the initial release date was chosen because it was the best available spot for an action-thriller. Anyway, the release date was pushed back, but there was more to come.
Next, several Republican sources charged the Obama Administration of improperly providing Oscar-winner Bigelow with classified information about the raid (can you see a pattern emerging here?) The charges became a prevalent election season talking point, with congressman Peter T. Ling requesting that the CIA and the U.S. Defense Department investigate whether or not information was inappropriately released. Both departments said they would look into it, though documents showed no evidence that classified information was leaked to the filmmakers. There was more to come.
In the most powerful attack on the movie, various commentators - including some senators- criticized Bigelow and her team for the movie's handling of interrogation and torture, claiming the film suggests intelligence as to the whereabouts of Obama Bin Laden was acquired by torturous methods. Frank Bruni concluded that the film appears to suggest "No waterboarding, no Bin Laden." Former Presidential candidate John McCain - who was tortured during his time as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam - said the movie was "wrong," before sending a critical letter to Michael Lynton, chairman of the film's distributor, stating that Bigelow was "perpetuating the myth that torture is effective."
The critics were perhaps unsurprisingly on the side of Bigelow, lauding the movie as a modern masterpiece. Time Out said, "This is an instant classic," while the Daily Mirror said, "Against all the odds, Kathryn Bigelow's powerful story of the hunt is a taut and searing action thriller that keeps you gripped." The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw gave the movie a positive review, though aired on the side of caution, suggesting, "It's an effective thriller - uninterested in anyone other than the home team."
The movie's lead actress - Jessica Chastain - defended the film against claims that it endorses the use of torture, telling Sky News at the movie's premiere, "It's absurd to think that. That's just another example of people reappropriating the film for their own advantage.
"Before the movie came out they were saying it was a pro-Obama campaign commercial. To me, it's pretty obvious ... it's against torture, it's not a pro-torture film."
Zero Dark Thirty hits cinemas in the UK on Friday (January 25, 2013).
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