Why I Probably Won’t Watch ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

Turns out they falsely link waterboarding with ascertaining the location of Bin Laden:

The film includes wrenching scenes of a terrorist suspect being waterboarded and subjected to other forms of torture by C.I.A. operatives; the suspect eventually surrenders information that helps lead to bin Laden. Bigelow maintains that everything in the film is based on first-hand accounts, but the waterboarding scene, which is likely to stir up controversy, appears to have strayed from real life. According to several official sources, including Dianne Feinstein, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the identity of bin Laden’s courier, whose trail led the C.I.A. to the hideout in Pakistan, was not discovered through waterboarding. “It’s a movie, not a documentary,” Boal said. “We’re trying to make the point that waterboarding and other harsh tactics were part of the C.I.A. program.” Still, Bigelow said, “the film doesn’t have an agenda, and it doesn’t judge. I wanted a boots-on-the-ground experience.”

Even with this egregious falsehood, and considering the war crimes being depicted, I might’ve seen it out of curiosity. But I simply can’t endure torture scenes, and that tips the balance for me. Torture porn makes me oogy. I can watch death on film all day long — certainly fights and the like. Torture, however, is intolerable. I feel the same way about scenes featuring abused animals. Call me squeamish but nope. No interest in watching a guy being relentlessly tortured, especially by American military personnel.

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  • atlavely

    I’ve never heard it referred to as “Zero Dark Thirty.” Always “Oh-Dark Thirty.” A small thing, I’m sure.

    • bphoon

      …but linked to authenticity. I was in the Army for a career and I believe anyone with any on-going contact with “boots on the ground” should get that, admittedly small, detail right. Drives me nuts (and that drives my wife nuts whenever we watch a show about the military together) when I see small details out of place, such as when LTC Frank Slade has four, not three, ribbons per row on his dress blues in Scent of a Woman. But, then, Bigelow was probably talking mostly with Navy personnel and, well, you know…Navy…

      • Lazarus Durden

        Bigelow had the same problems with The Hurt Locker. It’s why I never really cared to see it either.

        • bphoon

          Don’t get me wrong. I loved Scent of a Woman. I liked The Hurt Locker, too, despite the small errors. They do drive me nuts–it just doesn’t seem to me that hard to get them right. All you have to do is ask someone, say, maybe your military consultant.

          But what they did get right, in my opinion, was the general personality make-up of the protagonists. LTC Frank Slade: I identify with the part of him that mourns his past, is nostalgic for the days when “we do shit every day most civilians don’t even think of”. SFC William James: My wife will still tell you that I changed the minute I slid into my flight suit and walked out the door. You need a bit of that bravado that says, “I’m the best motherfucker there is at this,” when you go out, climb in, strap it on and do what you do. While I knew intellectually that certain situations are inescapable, my emotions told me there wasn’t a situation I couldn’t deal with, period.

          I remember seeing A Few Good Men and thinking, halfway though the movie, that the characters of COL Nathan Jessup and 1LT Jonathan Kendrick were way over the top, so much so as to be pure bullshit stereotypes…until I started remembering officers I’d known who were just like them.

          When film makers get those things right, I can deal with the minor errors as aggravating as they can be.

  • roxsteady

    I’m with Bob on this. Especially since I caught a segment of Joe Scarborough this morning praising this bullshit meme that torture helped get Bin Laden and this would upset Democrats, blah, blah, blah. Tommy Christopher of Mediaite takes Scarborough and his spokesmodel Mika apart for this. Mika first selectively reads Frank Bruni’s op ed in the NY Times and then bullshit mountain erupts. I just saw a post on the dailybeast by Andrew Sullivan who also takes down Bigelow along with another piece on Salon.com. I won’t be seeing this move either.

    • bphoon

      I find torture wholly repugnant and unnecessary as well as harmful to our nation. But, I’ll probably watch the movie if for no other reason than to pick it apart if I can.

      Torture is hard to watch, that’s for sure. However, it’s a scourge that’s with us to stay, I fear. It depends on how it’s portrayed, particularly in this instance, but if its repugnance is communicated, maybe there’s some small positive impact. In any event, I prefer to make my own judgement.

      On the other hand, to a cabal that idolized Jack Bauer as if he were real (I wondered if sometimes they actually realized 24 wasn’t a reality show), a depiction of torture revealing actionable intelligence will probably serve as proof positive of its efficacy.

      • GeneralLerong

        a cabal that idolized Jack Bauer as if he were real

        Includes one of our Supreme Court justices, if I remember correctly. Who would no doubt be burning witches with glee, were this the 1500s.

      • Victor_the_Crab

        “a cabal that idolized Jack Bauer as if he were real”

        What’s interesting is that Keifer Sutherland, who played Jack Bauer, is the grandson of Tommy Douglas, Canadian politician Premier of Saskatchewan for the Co-operative Commonwealth Party, and the first national leader of the New Democratic Party. As a premier (the Canadian equivelant of a U.S. governor), he was the first to introduce universal health care to his populace.

        Jack Bauer has a socialist background! OOGA BOOGA!

        • D_C_Wilson

          And his father, Donald Sutherland, has a long history of supporting liberal causes.

  • MrDHalen

    I can handle torture scenes when they are being practiced by the bad guys, but we will cross a line in American war films if we start presenting it as a function of our military. The hero in a moment of urgency, inflicts pain to find the location of the kidnapped in the heat of the moment may get a temporary pass, but organized, planned torture should never be American.

    There never has been or will there ever be anything honorable about torture.