Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

I went to see Zero Dark Thirty last night.  The film has  been criticized for suggesting that torture was a key part of the hunt for Bin Laden.  I think Mark Bowden said it best:

“It represents a willful misreading of the film. Torture is shown to be brutal, cruel and ineffective.”

The torture scenes are early on, and they represent some of the tamer aspects of "enhanced interrogation": there is some light battery.  There is one instance of waterboarding, that - to be fair to the films critics - does not do a good job of making waterboarding look as awful as it apparently is.  And frankly, it's tough to depict extreme sleep deprivation on film.

But the idea that the film says that torture led to Bin Laden's death is false.  I'm outraged by our use of torture, but I'm not going to see endorsements of it where it doesn't exist.  If I want endorsements of torture I'll read the Washington Post editorial page.

The hunt for Bin Laden came down to intelligent work.  Intelligence work, yes, but also intelligent work.  It came from following leads and hunches.

I'd be fascinated to know how accurate the character of Maya is.  Does she represent a composite?  A real person?  Or is she simply a narrative contrivance?  Because the real point of the film does not seem to be that torture works, but that the intuition and perseverance  of one woman led to OBL getting shot in the face.

And the attack on the compound is really good.

This movie isn't as good as The Hurt Locker, because it has to hew to real events.  But it's also not as good as Lincoln, which suffers from the same constraints.

I guess I have to see Les Miz and Django Unchained now.  Working my way through the Oscar list.

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