5 Ways Zero Dark Thirty Criticizes Torture

It’s been frustrating to witness the discussion surrounding the complexities and ambiguities within Zero Dark Thirty devolve into people shouting back and forth whether the film shows torture as either awesome or the worst. Whether you have ignorant fools such as Sean Hannity and Liz Cheney saying it’s awesome for showing how effective “enhanced interrogation” is or the liberal stalwarts like Glenn Greenwald blasting the movie for not focusing entirely on characters decrying the use of torture, the conversation is being dominated by people primarily looking to voice their own views on torture and using the movie as a topical means by which to do so. I’m all for discussing torture in this way—and in the interest of full disclosure, stand fairly firmly on the side of the Greenwald camp—but if you’re going to reference the movie, you need to know what you’re talking about.

These people don’t know what they’re talking about. The film critic community has pointed out a lot of errors that have been made by political columnists analysing the film, but there’s still been an overwhelming impression by the casual moviegoing public that this movie is a pro-torture, hurrah hurrah we got Bin Laden type movie. It’s neither of these, but what I want to focus on for the moment is the torture stuff, because that’s the easiest to refute. It’s also somewhat central to the point of the movie, but not in the way these commentators think it is or want it to be. More on that later. First, let’s detail the ways the movie complicates the popular narratives on torture and interrogation and ultimately criticizes the entire program the US government was responsible for. FYI, it’s probably best to go through this after having seen the movie or it will make little sense/give away some important details that are better to experience on screen.

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