Zero Dark Thirty opens today in Chicago
I can't imagine you've heard anything about a little movie called Zero Dark Thirty, but Kathryn Bigelow's riveting account of the hunt for Osama bin Laden—which, like The Hurt Locker, doubles as a portrait of single-minded devotion to a dangerous job—finally opens in Chicago today. It was near the top of both my own and A.A. Dowd's best lists.
As for the debate on whether the movie suggests that torture helped locate bin Laden, I'd say the answer is a qualified no. As screenwriter Mark Boal has noted, nothing useful is revealed during the film's lengthy, disturbing "enhanced interrogation" scenes. It's true—and on this point, Boal's response to the criticism simplifies a bit, I think—that when a detainee (Reda Kateb) is tricked into giving two analysts (Jessica Chastain and Jason Clarke) information over lunch, there's the suggestion he might be susceptible to the deception because he's been deprived of sleep. But that connection is ambiguous. In any case, the movie's goal is clearly to confront the viewer with the fact that, effective or not, torture happened—and on that point, the film unquestionably sees horror and a moral failing. That point tends to be obscured in these discussions. This subject seems to frighten fewer people when it's divorced from a pretense of realism and simply used for entertainment.