The torture scandal surrounding Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar nominated movie Zero Dark Thirty has somewhat marred the acclaimed movie's release, though the message from its creators is clear: go and watch film as it is supposed to be enjoyed, in a movie theatre free of propaganda, criticism, and silly American politicians.
The movie - starring Jessica Chastain and focusing on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden - is at the centre of a storm concerning its torture scenes, specifically that it suggests illegal methods were used in the acquirement of intelligence. A number of pundits and senators, including the former presidential candidate John McCain, attacked the movie in an open letter to Sony Pictures saying it was a "grossly inaccurate and misleading" insinuation that torture led to Bin Laden's location. Refusing to be swayed and judging the movie on its cinematic merits, critics have been unanimous in their praise. Cath Clarke of Time Out magazine said, "This is an instant classic," while Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times mused, "Kathryn Bigelow proves herself once again to be a master of heightened realism and narrative drive in this retelling of the decade-long search for Osama bin Laden." Turan's use of the word "retelling" is important - Zero Dark Thirty is exactly that, the retelling of the story by a screenwriter paid to make the story interesting and fun for audiences. Bigelow could have made a documentary on the hunt for Bin Laden though we're guessing it would have been largely boring until somewhere near the end. In fact, the Oscar winning filmmaker defends the use of torture and insists it was, in fact, part of the process. In an essay to the L.A. Times, she writes, "Experts disagree sharply on the facts and particulars of the intelligence hunt, and doubtlessly that debate will continue. As for what I personally believe, which has been the subject of inquiries, accusations and speculation, I think Osama Bin Laden was found due to ingenious detective work. Torture was, however, as we all know, employed in the early years of the hunt."
In a parting blow, Bigelow added, "As a lifelong pacifist, I support all protests against the use of torture, and quite simply, inhumane treatment of any kind. But I do wonder if some of the sentiments alternately expressed about the film might be more appropriately directed at those who instituted and ordered these U.S. policies, as opposed to a motion picture that brings the story to the screen."
Zero Dark Thirty is nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress (Jessica Chastain) and Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars in February. It is currently showing in U.S theaters and will open in the UK on January 25, 2013.
Watch the Zero Dark Thirty Trailer: