Zero Dark Thirty

Spoiler Space is a dedicated discussion area for people who have already seen a movie and want to talk about plot details we'd rather not reveal in our review. While we don’t promise spoilers for every film, here’s where you can discuss them to your hearts’ content.

Osama bin Laden is dead! 

So yes, it seems absurd to provide a spoiler space when everybody knows the ending, but for those who have seen the film, this serves as the best space to go deeper into details, politics, conspiracy theories, etc. I’ve already waded into this debate on Twitter to challenge Glenn Greenwald, who wrote a column decrying the film as “glorifying torture” without having actually seen the film. (He has since, and he declared it even worse than he imagined, and folks like The Atlantic’s Peter Maass and The New Yorker’s Jane Meyer have criticized Boal and Bigelow sharply.) Then there are other political writers like Andrew Sullivan (who was initially dubious) and Wired’s Spencer Ackerman, who praised the film, with the latter singling out those contentious torture scenes and unpacking them in great detail. 

As for my perspective, I remain thoroughly unconvinced by the assertion that Zero Dark Thirty glorifies torture. I think it properly acknowledges that torture was used in interrogation, but the ultimate success of finding bin Laden is shown as owing far more to a persistent investigative effort in the field. In other words, this ain’t one of 24’s ticking-time-bomb scenarios. The charge that it’s “CIA hagiography” is more compelling to me, though one I lack the expertise to judge one way or another. 

So how can two people see the exact same movie and come to entirely different conclusions about it? I wrote this (and this), via Twitter: “Critics are inclined, sometimes to their peril, to consider aesthetics over politics. However the reverse is also true. The politically minded often miss aesthetic nuances that might complicate their responses.” Before I get called a torture apologist again, let me say upfront that I deplore torture and feel it’s never justified. Whether it “works” or not is, to my mind, not even relevant. (Though I’m not convinced it works in this movie regardless.) 

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