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ZERO DARK THIRTY Discussion - Page 3

post #101 of 340
I was honestly unaware that I needed objective reasons for holding a subjective opinion on something.

My bad.
post #102 of 340

Your subjective opinion is completely and totally baseless by your own admission!  At least make an argument for why it's propaganda, if you can't do that much, don't bother!

post #103 of 340
Sorry. What I mean is that I while I may not have any real reason for being mistrustful of it, I still feel it is unnecessary and maybe even irresponsible for ZDT to exist right now.

It is easy (and . . . fun . . . ) to fill that vacuum with 'sinister forces' . . . but there is still an unseemly aspect to it that doesn't sit right.

Looks 'round. Nods twice.

Rough thread.

(backs out)
Edited by Turingmachine75 - 1/5/13 at 5:43pm
post #104 of 340

Its propaganda because its fiction pretending to be fact.  The producers and directors have on MULTIPLE occasions said, "its a mixture of fact and fiction.  Its a movie, not a documentary." Their words almost verbatim.  They say this whenever cornered by journalists, because its the truth.  Much of the movie is made up.  

 

Actual non fiction, legitimate pieces of documentary don't make shit up, everything is rigorously sourced.  Its not even controversial anymore to say zero torture led to Bin Laden being captured.  Now it makes Americans feel better to have a movie tell them that their inhuman and barbaric actions across the world is justified, and this movie provides them with that lie.  

 

Seeing how worked up some of you are getting, its obvious you want to believe this lie, even though its been exposed so many times, in any newspaper worth its salt.  Even pro war NYTs has posted a number of great take downs of this movie, as  has the Guardian.  None of this is complicated and its been said before, if you guys don't understand the argument, I don't know what to tell you.  Its not that difficult to comprehend.

 

By the creators own admission, ZDT is a movie not a documentary.  Its fiction.  So much of it has been debunked, and its most important thesis, lying about the effectiveness of American barbarism and torture firmly puts it into the land of fiction. 

post #105 of 340
double
post #106 of 340

They're not lying about torture.  It doesn't work. Period. 

post #107 of 340

If ZDT is propaganda, whose agenda is it pushing?  Even if it uses a narrative largely crafted from lies by lying liars, if the point is portraying the murky moral grey areas, does it matter what percentage of the film actually happened?  Wasn't it Godard who said all cinema except The Hobbit is lying at 24 frames per second?

post #108 of 340

Hobbit is lying to my face at 48!  FUCK that movie!  It's pathological. 
 

post #109 of 340

Clearly The Hobbit engages in doublespeak.

post #110 of 340

The movie doesn't glorify torture.  But it does justify it, which may be even more insidious.  Part of that is the dictum about there being no such thing as a truly anti-war movie.  And while no important info is given up by detainees directly under torture, it is all gathered from detainees who have been subjected to torture (plus in some of the videos Maya watches, it does seem like the people blabbing are under current duress).  And the linearity of telling this as a film, which moves from one scene to another, does carry the implication that what happens between Character A and Character B in Scene 4 is significantly informed by what happened between Character A and Character B in Scene 1.  So when a person/character is tortured for a few scenes and then gives up important information, there's no way to avoid suggesting that the torture was a necessary component of getting there.  I felt the film made a strong case for the necessity of torture in killing Bin Laden,  and that killing Bin Laden was a completely positive thing, ergo it was pro-torture.  And I am vehemently anti-torture.

 

And yet...

 

I think they portrayed it the only way they could.  One of the thing that sucked hardest about being against torture in the last decade has been the awkward position it places you in when your country is relying on it so heavily for it's anti-terrorism efforts.  And you hate to see those tactics validated (because efficacy is only part of the argument), but obviously you want those efforts to be successful, because their failure carries horrific consequences for us all.  Once you've tortured someone, then it doesn't matter if you treat them appropriately afterward or if the legitimate methods would've turned up the same info, the proponents have their room to claim that it was the torture that got the whole ball rolling.  And it was used so widely for so long the waters of all our intelligence gathering operations have been muddied when it comes to what was responsible for what.  We only have one historical record to draw from, and that record shows correlation between torturing terror suspects and (eventually) killing Bin Laden, if not direct causation.  The problem being that the compression of the timeline and very nature of narrative storytelling strongly suggests the causation.  

 

The film is endeavoring to tell a true story, and the story only happened one way.  To portray the hunt for Bin Laden without torture would simply be dishonest.  And the subject is too important to lie about.

post #111 of 340

Does the movie say it's necessary, or does it just say it worked?

post #112 of 340
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bailey View Post

Does the movie say it's necessary, or does it just say it worked?

 

Six in one hand, is what I was saying.  

 

Which is extremely truthful to one of the more problematic aspects of the War On Terror, as I was saying.  But I suspect that even less people are willing to parse that difference in a movie than will in real life, which is why I understand the concerns of those who object to the movie's very existence.

post #113 of 340
This is one of the greatest films I have ever seen.
post #114 of 340
Quote:
Originally Posted by Schwartz View Post

 

The film is endeavoring to tell a true story, and the story only happened one way.  To portray the hunt for Bin Laden without torture would simply be dishonest.  And the subject is too important to lie about.

 

This is completely true, and I don't think anyone is really saying not to show torture.  Every single critique I've read of the movie, and my own, is more about how torture is portrayed, and how much.  And I kinda disagree about it not glorifying it, it doesn't doe this wholesale, but it kinda does make the torturers out to be badasses, rather than racist savages.    

 

And again, the other problem a lot of people have is people claiming the movie is a piece of journalism, which is insulting to actual journalists.  Its an incredibly well made movie.  But it might also be despicable and dangerous in the current climate of the militarization of America.    

 

And of course you can have anti war movies.  Redacted was an anti war movie, that portrayed the true story of the gang rape and murder of a 14 yr Iraqi girl by American soldiers, that is right after they execute her family.  Only one person was charged with a crime.

 

The truth is CIA committed far worse confirmed tortures than the ones shown the in movie.  That was nothing.  The CIA destroyed close to hundred tapes of torture, and at least a few innocent men were sodomized by their interrogators.   

 

Lets also remember, the military is embedded in Hollywood on a regular basis, as long as it plays into their vision.  There's a reason they cooperated on this, they love it.  People don't understand the power of the military in Hollywood.  

 

 

 

Quote:

Bipartisan Congressional Bill Would Authorize the Use of Propaganda On Americans Living Inside America

 

Because Banning Propaganda “Ties the Hands of America’s Diplomatic Officials, Military, and Others by Inhibiting Our Ability to Effectively Communicate In a Credible Way”

Michael Hastings reports:

An amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences is being inserted into the latest defense authorization bill….

The amendment would “strike the current ban on domestic dissemination” of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the Pentagon, according to the summary of the law at the House Rules Committee’s official website.

The tweak to the bill would essentially neutralize two previous acts—the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987—that had been passed to protect U.S. audiences from our own government’s misinformation campaigns.

post #115 of 340
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nabster View Post
  

Lets also remember, the military is embedded in Hollywood on a regular basis, as long as it plays into their vision.  There's a reason they cooperated on this, they love it.  People don't understand the power of the military in Hollywood.  

 

 

Absolutely. It's widely known the Pentagon has a well-staffed, well-resourced department solely devoted to the positive portrayal of America in general and the American military in particular. Play the game (like Michael Bay, the biggest war-propagandist in Hollywood) and a dizzying array of killing technology - from a tank right up to an aircraft carrier - is suddenly at your disposal. But the price is a severe one. Every single line of script must conform to the Brass Hats' noble vision or it's no game. Oliver Stone talks at length about widespread collusion with the military in this fascinating video.

 

The CIA is no different. People have this weird notion that spooks are predominately concerned with fighting shadowy forces threatening to destroy America. Sure, some are tasked with such responsibility. But ever since the Vietnam war when those in power were shocked to find public opinion had deserted them the battle has henceforth been an ideological one. And the enemy isn't them - it's you: the public. After all, various branches of the intelligence agencies don't classify thousands of documents "Secret" or "Top Secret" each week because they are afraid some crack Islamic infiltration cell will discover their plans. It's done to prevent a) the public from discovering dirty deals they do every day (see Iran-Contra, COINTELPRO, Project Phoenix etc.) and b) those who authorise and commit these actions from being held legally accountable by anyone for anything (see Reagan, Bush, Oliver North etc).

 

I'm not suggesting that Bigelow and the writers are on the CIA payroll. But it wouldn't be the first time an intelligence agency has quietly and anonymously introduced an ostensibly "reliable and trusted source" to a production in order to promote politically useful myths. After all, this is nothing new. Propaganda is as old as history. 

post #116 of 340

I was not expecting this movie to be this gripping, this tense, this occasionally funny (Chastain using the word Motherfucker with the CIA Director, among others, spring to mind) and tight.  I guess the torture aspect is a YMMV deal; I feel that the film ultimately says "yes, it happened - no it doesn't appear to work at all" and the closure at the end has a "was it worth it?" tinge to it that feels pretty far removed from any pro-military propaganda that I've ever heard of.  

 

It's certainly the best, most thought-provoking film I've seen this year.  The score, cinematography, Chastain, Boal and Bigelow will all hopefully be rewarded come Oscar time, if the "controversy" doesn't derail things.  I'm hoping that, as the film goes into wider release it gets a fair shake and people go into it with an open mind.

post #117 of 340

I don't see how this is necessarily pro-torture.  It's kind of ambivalent about its effectiveness.  The detainee didn't give up information about the courier while being tortured, he gave it up only after he was treated like a human being and given food and stuff.  If you watch interviews with the FBI and Army interrogators (people who were doing it long before CIA got involved in the game), many will tell you that torture delays the far more effective technique of building a relationship with the detainee to illicit real information.  That's precisely what happened with KSM, who didn't give up good information until after they stopped waterboarding him. 


Edited by Pepe - 1/8/13 at 4:05pm
post #118 of 340
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pepe View Post

I don't see how this is necessarily pro-torture.  It's kind of ambivalent about its effectiveness.  The detainee didn't give up information about the courier while being tortured, he gave it up only after he was treated like a human being and given food and stuff.  If you watch interviews with the FBI and Army interrogators (people who were doing it long before CIA got involved in the game), many will tell you that torture delays the far more effective technique of building a relationship with the detainee to illicit real information.  That's precisely what happened with KSM, who didn't give up good information until after they stopped waterboarding him. 

 

The second part of your post is completely the case, as Ali Soufan, the FBI's top interrogator, testified before congress.  Unfortunately, a major theme of ZDT is that torture yielded the information that led to OBL.  It's everywhere in the movie, one of the film's major themes, if you can call it that.  But left out there as an accepted reality, implied when not explicitly shown, and referred to as the key to the case.  According to Ali Soufan, it's a combination of good intelligence and humane treatment that yields information, but that method exists in ZDT only in concert with torture.  Even if the filmmakers didn't intend to make a pro-torture movie, by sticking solely to pro-torture sources (without presenting a single dissenting voice, other than dismissive references to political interference) or using their imaginations, that's exactly what they did. 

post #119 of 340

There's a scene in the movie featuring a high level CIA official ripping his operatives and analysis apart for failing to get any targets. He slams his fist on the table and says WE ARE FAILING. This is after over an hour of the movie showing excessive torture with absolutely no results.


Why is this so hard for people to swallow?

post #120 of 340

And yes, I realize that a key piece of information comes from the featured detainee that is tortured in the beginning. I think if the movie was advocating torture as an effective tool, it would have that character reveal the information after being tortured. His attitude towards the torture is resilient though. The movie makes a point of him giving misleading information quite clearly. 

The torture works so poorly that the CIA has to lie to that character, lie to him and tell him he gave them information that he actually didn't! Only then, with the added bonus of carrot versus stick, does he give up information that leads to the Saudi Group.

I know what you're thinking. "He wouldn't have given that information up if it wasn't for the torture." But we don't know that, and I love the ambiguity of that idea. We could have easily just gotten the information from lying to him. Or, perhaps, maybe not? Perhaps torture works, but what's the cost of it working? It fits with the movies ambivalent tone about, well, everything. That's why I can't believe anyone would watch this movie and think it's pro or anti anything. It just is. It doesn't condemn or condone anyone. It's just methodical and cold and presents itself matter of factly. 

post #121 of 340
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parker View Post

There's a scene in the movie featuring a high level CIA official ripping his operatives and analysis apart for failing to get any targets. He slams his fist on the table and says WE ARE FAILING. This is after over an hour of the movie showing excessive torture with absolutely no results.


Why is this so hard for people to swallow?

 

I've only seen it once so it's hard for me to remember every detail, but that was my impression watching the movie, unequivocally.  The initial detainee is tortured and later gives them the information on the courier.  Another detainee mentions something about not wanting to be tortured again, or someone else says he won't be tortured again.  When the pictures are flashed of people who ID'd the courier, you assume they've been tortured. Not one line implies that they haven't, so given what the film has already presented, that's the clear implication (given how movies and storytelling work).  During a conversation in Washington (I think), someone says their information has dried up since they were hamstrung on "the detainee program."  The only bit of information that I don't recall carrying the implication of torture is when the female analyst hands Maya the real name of the courier.  I don't recall if that name was surrendered under torture or not.  As I recall, the only mentions of not torturing were Obama on TV saying essentially "we don't torture" (which appeared to get zero reaction from the people watching it) and talk of politics changing.  No mention from a single character that torture didn't work, was morally wrong or bad policy.  To me, this movie is the narrative equivalent of making a movie about the Iraq war taking as fact that Saddam Hussein had WMD and the warning would be a mushroom cloud, without any mention that there many dissenting voices and no real evidence. 

post #122 of 340
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parker View Post

And yes, I realize that a key piece of information comes from the featured detainee that is tortured in the beginning. I think if the movie was advocating torture as an effective tool, it would have that character reveal the information after being tortured. His attitude towards the torture is resilient though. The movie makes a point of him giving misleading information quite clearly. 

The torture works so poorly that the CIA has to lie to that character, lie to him and tell him he gave them information that he actually didn't! Only then, with the added bonus of carrot versus stick, does he give up information that leads to the Saudi Group.

I know what you're thinking. "He wouldn't have given that information up if it wasn't for the torture." But we don't know that, and I love the ambiguity of that idea. We could have easily just gotten the information from lying to him. Or, perhaps, maybe not? Perhaps torture works, but what's the cost of it working? It fits with the movies ambivalent tone about, well, everything. That's why I can't believe anyone would watch this movie and think it's pro or anti anything. It just is. It doesn't condemn or condone anyone. It's just methodical and cold and presents itself matter of factly. 

 

There's no ambiguity.  If you were in a vacuum and knew nothing of what actually happened and had no moral judgment about torture, you'd come out of that movie saying, "It was a movie about the CIA using torture to get information that led to bin Laden."  Yes, it does present itself matter-of-factly.  It makes its case, but it's about an incident that is still fresh in all of our minds, we lived through through this, and it leaves out huge swaths of facts.  It also leaves out any kind of discussion of effectiveness -- you wouldn't know there were experienced interrogators who testified that torture was counter productive and did not, in fact, yield the information that led to bin Laden -- much less any kind of moral soul searching among the characters. 

 

I thought the raid was well done though.

post #123 of 340

The reason that they're able to get what they have by the end of the movie comes not from torture but from a piece of intelligence that was provided to them post 9/11 by another government (Saudi? Iraqi? I forget). The reason they didn't get to that information quicker is because they're buried in information and too busy doing things like torturing detainees to very little results. They make a point of stating this in the final act. And remember, the one detainee tells them that their lead is dead. So whatever good results they got out of torture, they also received misleading information as well, which underlines how inconclusive the results actually are (if that particularly detainee was actually tortured, which remains ambiguous). 

 

Yes, they get a lead in the first half of the movie. I maintain that it's very ambiguous/questionable if that lead would have existed solely because of torture (the attitude the movie takes on torture is less "this is how it works" so much as it's "this is what it is"). But the second half removes the torture equation completely (which is the point of the Obama clip). And yet, they/she still manages to obtain their goal using other means. I feel like that's the strongest anti-torture statement the movie can make. To say they would have gotten the same results by using torture throughout the movie feels disingenuous. And to say the movie is directly promoting torture by not featuring anyone literally standing up against it seems downright silly and feels like it would cheapen the movie. I personally don't feel like it needs to, sine the point of the film is about how data begets violence which begets data. This isn't a manhunt so much of a search for something real in a digital universe full of hard drives, modems, phone lines and blips on screens. 

post #124 of 340
Quote:
Originally Posted by yt View Post

 It also leaves out any kind of discussion of effectiveness -- you wouldn't know there were experienced interrogators who testified that torture was counter productive and did not, in fact, yield the information that led to bin Laden -- much less any kind of moral soul searching among the characters. 

 

 

Strongly disagree with this. They don't explicitly state it, but I don't really feel like they have to. I don't go to the movies to be explicitly told things. Especially things I already know. Regardless, I feel like much of this is in the movie. It's just not hitting you over the head with it. But perhaps we all see what we want to see...

post #125 of 340

I thought the approach to torture was fairly mature and straightforward. I shall now make a completely left field link to the movie Quills, which had one of the better free speech explorations I've seen. When dealing with the question of whether or not violent or salacious art provokes violent or salacious behavior in the audience, that movie states definitively that it does. Then with that out of the way, it asks now what? This movie does the same thing with torture. I wouldn't call the film pro-torture, to be sure, but if the film is anti-torture, then why are those scenes in the movie? Certainly not to show it to be a completely useless interrogation technique.

 

Now, to be fair, I really don't know much about this particular issue. But there is something that strikes me as a little biased and facile about the assertion that torture simply doesn't work. Common sense says that if someone is being waterboarded,  sometimes they'll talk. The question, and I think the movie portrays this extremely well in the Jason Clarke character, is what do we do with that information, and what does it say about us if we use it? That there isn't a pat answer in Zero Dark Thirty is one of the many things that make it pretty awesome.

post #126 of 340
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parker View Post

The reason that they're able to get what they have by the end of the movie comes not from torture but from a piece of intelligence that was provided to them post 9/11 by another government (Saudi? Iraqi? I forget). The reason they didn't get to that information quicker is because they're buried in information and too busy doing things like torturing detainees to very little results. They make a point of stating this in the final act. And remember, the one detainee tells them that their lead is dead. So whatever good results they got out of torture, they also received misleading information as well, which underlines how inconclusive the results actually are (if that particularly detainee was actually tortured, which remains ambiguous). 

 

Yes, they get a lead in the first half of the movie. I maintain that it's very ambiguous/questionable if that lead would have existed solely because of torture (the attitude the movie takes on torture is less "this is how it works" so much as it's "this is what it is"). But the second half removes the torture equation completely (which is the point of the Obama clip). And yet, they/she still manages to obtain their goal using other means. I feel like that's the strongest anti-torture statement the movie can make. To say they would have gotten the same results by using torture throughout the movie feels disingenuous. And to say the movie is directly promoting torture by not featuring anyone literally standing up against it seems downright silly and feels like it would cheapen the movie. I personally don't feel like it needs to, sine the point of the film is about how data begets violence which begets data. This isn't a manhunt so much of a search for something real in a digital universe full of hard drives, modems, phone lines and blips on screens. 

 

No it isn't.  If it were, the entire first hour would have been edited out.  And my assessment of what's actually in the movie is disingenuous?  Think you're reading a lot into this film that you want to be in there but which is not included in the actual film itself.  There is ZERO implication that torture did NOT yield what they needed to find bin Laden.  And the piece of information you're talking about is totally glossed over--not to make a point that they would have caught him faster if they'd not tortured.  I think you're projecting.  And I don't think it's "promoting torture," but it's taking as a GIVEN that torture works and torture led to bin Laden.  I think Mark Boal didn't do his due diligence and stepped in it, and now all their hedging and bobbing and weaving is telling the tale.  Either Boal started with his ideological conclusion that torture works and wrote from that, or he relied on CIA consultants that believed that -- without realizing that if you talk to 500 CIA officers you'll get 500 different narratives, and as someone pointed out earlier, they burned all the tapes.  The "torture works and caught bin Laden" theme of the film is a product of either ideology or lack of research.  There is no evidence to what you're saying.  It's not "ambiguous."  It's as straightforward a case as I've seen. 

post #127 of 340
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parker View Post

 

Strongly disagree with this. They don't explicitly state it, but I don't really feel like they have to. I don't go to the movies to be explicitly told things. Especially things I already know. Regardless, I feel like much of this is in the movie. It's just not hitting you over the head with it. But perhaps we all see what we want to see...

 

You may already know that a lot of experienced people contradict everything they show in the film, but most people walking into the movie theater don't.  You can be dismissive that I'm seeing what I want to see but I think you are--you're seeing ambiguity when it's absolutely unambiguous.   If they don't explicitly state it, what do you think the average moviegoer who doesn't know anything about the actual manhunt will walk out thinking? 

post #128 of 340

I don't care about the average moviegoer. I'd rather have a movie not talk down and condescend to me. It's a movie, not a public service announcement. I also think that you're probably not giving the average moviegoer enough credit. 

 

And I still think the movies portrayal of torture is presented as a matter of fact and ambivalently. It presents the culture of the CIA for what it was at the time. That's the point of the first half and that's why I'd rather it not be edited out. Once the culture of torture falls out of fashion, or changes with the political wind, people drop it like a hat. The transformation of Dan from frat boy torture king to desk jockeying analyst underlines this. What did you expect them to do when they saw that Obama news clip, cheer? That's not who these characters are. They treat it like they treat everything else in the movie, even the suicide bombings; they treat it as data to analyze. 

I mean, you're stubbornly insisting that the movie is pro-torture. And I'm sitting here telling you that I don't feel that's the case, and I'm not the only one. Since we both have radically different takes on the movie, can't you at least admit that there's the possibility that it can be read differently? Or am I just an idiot? 

That line in the movie, "we don't know what we don't know" underlines the torture analogy for me. We don't know if it worked and we don't know if it didn't. You can't argue that torture was the only reason that guy gave up the lead because the movie doesn't present it like that. It just doesn't. 

edit: Just to be clear yt, my comment about "seeing what you want to see" was sincere. I wasn't merely implying that I thought you were, but I fully acknowledge the possibility that I liked the movie enough to find ways to excuse some of the problematic elements. And there is problematic stuff in this movie, but I strongly believe it's in no way pro-torture. 


Edited by Parker - 1/9/13 at 7:34am
post #129 of 340
I don't think tje filmmakers have a definitive answer on whether torture helped or hindered the hunt for Bin Laden and the greater war on terror. What the movie seems to suggest is that at best, torture can soften up a detainee or work as a detterent but the torture we're shown in the movie doesn't produce actionable intel on its own.

If there's any message that can be gleaned it's that torture may work in a rudimentary way but traditional techniques work much better.
post #130 of 340

I dunno, it seems to me many of those accusing the movie of being propaganda are the same ones making the blanket insistence that torture doesn't work, and that the movie is irresponsible for being ambiguous about it.  Indeed, they go so far as to say ambiguity in this instance is the same as consent.  It's an uncomfortable truth that evil may be used to get good results.  Like (I assume) everyone here, I reject the use of state-sanctioned torture.  But its possible effectiveness is something we have to face if we're going to make the conscious choice to reject that evil.  I get the sense the movie wants us to do that.

post #131 of 340
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parker View Post

I don't care about the average moviegoer. I'd rather have a movie not talk down and condescend to me. It's a movie, not a public service announcement. I also think that you're probably not giving the average moviegoer enough credit. 

 

And I still think the movies portrayal of torture is presented as a matter of fact and ambivalently. It presents the culture of the CIA for what it was at the time. That's the point of the first half and that's why I'd rather it not be edited out. Once the culture of torture falls out of fashion, or changes with the political wind, people drop it like a hat. The transformation of Dan from frat boy torture king to desk jockeying analyst underlines this. What did you expect them to do when they saw that Obama news clip, cheer? That's not who these characters are. They treat it like they treat everything else in the movie, even the suicide bombings; they treat it as data to analyze. 

I mean, you're stubbornly insisting that the movie is pro-torture. And I'm sitting here telling you that I don't feel that's the case, and I'm not the only one. Since we both have radically different takes on the movie, can't you at least admit that there's the possibility that it can be read differently? Or am I just an idiot? 

That line in the movie, "we don't know what we don't know" underlines the torture analogy for me. We don't know if it worked and we don't know if it didn't. You can't argue that torture was the only reason that guy gave up the lead because the movie doesn't present it like that. It just doesn't. 

edit: Just to be clear yt, my comment about "seeing what you want to see" was sincere. I wasn't merely implying that I thought you were, but I fully acknowledge the possibility that I liked the movie enough to find ways to excuse some of the problematic elements. And there is problematic stuff in this movie, but I strongly believe it's in no way pro-torture. 

 

In this post, you're talking about the movie as if it were a documentary.  "And I still think the movies portrayal of torture is presented as a matter of fact and ambivalently. It presents the culture of the CIA for what it was at the time." -- according to whom?  There was an op-ed in the Washington Post recently by a CIA type who made the argument that in his mind, "enhanced interrogation" DID lead to OBL, but it was "no where near as harsh as presented in the film."  According to Ali Soufan's congressional testimony, it was much worse than presented in the film and had the opposite effect as presented in the movie -- where they were getting information using tried and true techniques, detainees "shut down" when tortured.  I'm just amazed at the presumption by people who like the movie that ZDT is "just the way it was."  It wasn't.  You're taking at face value something that's widely disputed and incredibly controversial -- which it's not IN ANY WAY presented to be in the film.  It's presented in the film to be a fact.  And Mark Boal's shifty, feckless hedging when called on it tells me that either he started with that preconception about torture (the way, say, a writer of '24' would) or his sources were all pro-torture CIA and contractors. 

 

Again, in my opinion, there is zero ambiguity about the efficacy of torture as an effective interrogation tactic in the movie.  There is zero suggestion that it may, in fact, be counter-productive in intelligence gathering.  And there is zero reflection among any of the characters that even if it were effective (which, according to the experts I personally believe have the most credibility on the subject, it isn't), it's still morally repulsive and bad policy. 

 

Believe it or not, I went into this movie not knowing that it would be presenting torture in this way.  I like to stay spoiler free before seeing a movie I'm looking forward to.  I've been a Kathryn Bigelow fan since The Loveless and love all her movies (including the ones people hate, like K19, Strange Days and Blue Steel) and remain a fan.  I watched the movie with an open mind, expecting it to reflect back--within a storytelling context--on what happened in the first hour.  That never happened.  I endured 20 minutes of painful telegraphing before the car bomb actually went off.  I put up with the two-dimensional characters about whom one knows nothing (other than James Gandolfini as Leon Panetta and the Navy SEALs) still believing the movie could pull itself out of a nose dive.  In some ways, Kathryn Bigelow does, with the raid sequence.  But I lay this movie's crippling faults at the feet of Mark Boal for not doing his homework before taking on a film of this heft and gravity.

 

Again, to me, it's the equivalent of making a movie about the Iraq War taking as a given that Hussein had WMDs and was planning an imminent attack on the US without ever even suggesting that none of those pretexts were true.

post #132 of 340
Quote:
Originally Posted by dynamotv View Post

I don't think tje filmmakers have a definitive answer on whether torture helped or hindered the hunt for Bin Laden and the greater war on terror. What the movie seems to suggest is that at best, torture can soften up a detainee or work as a detterent but the torture we're shown in the movie doesn't produce actionable intel on its own.
If there's any message that can be gleaned it's that torture may work in a rudimentary way but traditional techniques work much better.

 

That torture "may work" is a definitive answer on whether torture helped or hindered the hunt for bin Laden.  And many people who were on the ground and at the black sites at the time dispute that.  Traditional techniques do work better, NOT in concert with torture--yet this truth is never presented in the film.  Never.  The detainees that give information are either shown being tortured, referenced as having been tortured, or implied to have been tortured.

post #133 of 340
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bailey View Post

I dunno, it seems to me many of those accusing the movie of being propaganda are the same ones making the blanket insistence that torture doesn't work, and that the movie is irresponsible for being ambiguous about it.

 

My point, Bailey, is that the movie is not being ambiguous about it.  That torture works is a given within the context of the storytelling presented in the film.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bailey View Post

It's an uncomfortable truth that evil may be used to get good results. 

 

Says who?  Says the Bush Administration, their allies, and the producers of '24.'  A lot of extremely credible voices say it's not a truth, uncomfortable or otherwise.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bailey View Post

Like (I assume) everyone here, I reject the use of state-sanctioned torture.  But its possible effectiveness is something we have to face if we're going to make the conscious choice to reject that evil.  I get the sense the movie wants us to do that.

 

The movie wants us to make a conscious choice to reject that "effective" evil?  How?  In the film, that "effective" evil yields us bin Laden.  Where, in the film, is anyone asking us to reject it?  I see many places where those meddling politicos want to bury it for superficial Washington reasons, but please point out to me where in the film anyone makes any kind of moral reflection on its use, whether effective or not. 

post #134 of 340
Quote:
Originally Posted by yt View Post

 

That torture "may work" is a definitive answer on whether torture helped or hindered the hunt for bin Laden.  And many people who were on the ground and at the black sites at the time dispute that.  Traditional techniques do work better, NOT in concert with torture--yet this truth is never presented in the film.  Never.  The detainees that give information are either shown being tortured, referenced as having been tortured, or implied to have been tortured.

 

How would you even present that in the film?  Unless you're suggesting that torture was not in fact widely used in the hunt for OBL, then I'm not what you're advocating.  Should we pretend that the CIA never tortured anyone, or just that it never produced a single scrap of intelligence that contributed in some way to the understanding of Al Qaeda operations?

post #135 of 340
Quote:
Originally Posted by yt View Post

 

My point, Bailey, is that the movie is not being ambiguous about it.  That torture works is a given within the context of the storytelling presented in the film.

 

 

Says who?  Says the Bush Administration, their allies, and the producers of '24.'  A lot of extremely credible voices say it's not a truth, uncomfortable or otherwise.

 

 

The movie wants us to make a conscious choice to reject that "effective" evil?  How?  In the film, that "effective" evil yields us bin Laden.  Where, in the film, is anyone asking us to reject it?  I see many places where those meddling politicos want to bury it for superficial Washington reasons, but please point out to me where in the film anyone makes any kind of moral reflection on its use, whether effective or not. 

 

It's up to us to decide if we reject the notion that if torture could have yielded us bin Laden, would it still be worth it?  Whether or not Bigelow and Boal believe that their movie is as close to the truth of what happened as we're going to get is not really important.  Personally I think the reality was probably quite different from what they were given "access" to. But what's important is their portrayal of torture in an unflinching way, and that they expect the audience to be smart enough to ask themselves "if this brutality gave me something I needed, would that be worth it to me?"  It strikes me that anyone with the proper perspective would say "No.  It's not worth it.  We must be good enough to find other ways." But it's not incumbent on the movie to hold our hands and make that decision for us. 

post #136 of 340
Quote:
Originally Posted by Schwartz View Post

 

How would you even present that in the film?  Unless you're suggesting that torture was not in fact widely used in the hunt for OBL, then I'm not what you're advocating.  Should we pretend that the CIA never tortured anyone, or just that it never produced a single scrap of intelligence that contributed in some way to the understanding of Al Qaeda operations?

 

It's a big leap from "torture may have produced a scrap of evidence that contributed in some way to the understanding of al Qaeda operations" (which you're suggesting) and "torture led to bin Laden," which is the case made in the film. 

 

How would you present it?  I don't know.  Gifted storytellers can take complex issues and reveal the complexity of those issues without bogging down the story.  Watch a movie like The Year of Living Dangerously.  There are many ideas floating around in that film, many different forces and conflicting beliefs and agendas, and yet somehow they manage to tell a complex story in a way that wasn't insultingly two-dimensional and one-sided. 

post #137 of 340
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bailey View Post

 

It's up to us to decide if we reject the notion that if torture could have yielded us bin Laden, would it still be worth it? 

 

Is that our responsibility just as a matter of course when watching movies?  Because no where within the film itself is that a theme.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bailey View Post

Whether or not Bigelow and Boal believe that their movie is as close to the truth of what happened as we're going to get is not really important. Personally I think the reality was probably quite different from what they were given "access" to. But what's important is their portrayal of torture in an unflinching way, and that they expect the audience to be smart enough to ask themselves "if this brutality gave me something I needed, would that be worth it to me?"  It strikes me that anyone with the proper perspective would say "No.  It's not worth it.  We must be good enough to find other ways." But it's not incumbent on the movie to hold our hands and make that decision for us. 

 

No, but it is incumbent on the movie to be what it claims to be.  It claims to be based on true events.  If someone made a movie about Obama being a Manchurian Candidate from Kenya without any glimmer of an idea that maybe he wasn't and the people saying he was had a whole separate agenda, would you be telling me that it's my responsibility as an audience member to decide if he were actually a Kenyan plant, would you still support him as president?  What you're saying is the audience's responsibility with this particular movie is not within the movie itself.  The movie presents itself as a "just the facts" procedural, except that it leaves out critical and essential facts for understanding what actually happened. 

 

That's not the same as "holding our hands."  I'm not saying it has to be an Oliver Stone movie, but please, Mark Boal is taking on an INCREDIBLY complex issue with this movie and just skates by the fact that there's not even consensus within the CIA about torture, its effectiveness, its frequency, etc.  They burned the evidence.  We'll probably never know.  It could have been a thousand times worse than shown in the film (which it was for some detainees, who were left completely catatonic).  Yet there is not a hint of any of that complexity or shades of gray within the film. 

post #138 of 340
Quote:
Originally Posted by yt View Post

 

In this post, you're talking about the movie as if it were a documentary.  "And I still think the movies portrayal of torture is presented as a matter of fact and ambivalently. It presents the culture of the CIA for what it was at the time." -- according to whom?  

That's interesting. Because to me, I see the movie as complete fiction. The "according to whom" is the film makers. Yes, they're basing what they're saying in reality, but the movie is far from a documentary and I can appreciate it and analyze it as a moive. It's you that seems to be caught up with only looking at it as a representation of reality to me.

post #139 of 340

Parker, you say:

 

Quote:
And I still think the movies portrayal of torture is presented as a matter of fact and ambivalently. It presents the culture of the CIA for what it was at the time. That's the point of the first half and that's why I'd rather it not be edited out. Once the culture of torture falls out of fashion, or changes with the political wind, people drop it like a hat.

 

And then you say this:

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Parker View Post

That's interesting. Because to me, I see the movie as complete fiction. The "according to whom" is the film makers. Yes, they're basing what they're saying in reality, but the movie is far from a documentary and I can appreciate it and analyze it as a moive. It's you that seems to be caught up with only looking at it as a representation of reality to me.

 

You can't have it both ways.  It can't both "present the culture of the CIA for what it was at the time" and "base what they're saying in reality" and be "complete fiction" which only I am looking at "as a representation of reality." 

 

Here's my answer to your earlier question. 

 

Quote:
I mean, you're stubbornly insisting that the movie is pro-torture. And I'm sitting here telling you that I don't feel that's the case, and I'm not the only one. Since we both have radically different takes on the movie, can't you at least admit that there's the possibility that it can be read differently? Or am I just an idiot?

 

You're obviously not an idiot.  But here's how I see it:  you can like the movie, and I can not like the movie, and neither one of us is "right" because it's a subjective question.  I don't think the filmmakers necessarily set out to make pro-torture propaganda, but--whether out of cockiness, ignorance or over-reliance on bad sources--what they did with this script is make the unchallenged case that torture was the effective tactic in the hunt for bin Laden.  That is not a subjective judgment.  They did that, and the movie bears it out.  It's such a gross distortion and oversimplification of a series of events that unfolded over the last decade that it's impossible to ignore in a film "based on true events."  

 

It can obviously be read differently--not because ambiguity is present in the film itself but because people who like the movie will suspend judgement.  I do that myself with movies or TV shows I like.  But I've talked to some people who liked this movie and defended it against my attacks on filmmaking and storytelling grounds but can't in good conscience deny that it makes a case that torture led to bin Laden.  I mean, watch the movie again, try to find evidence of ambiguity and point it out to me.  Because I sure didn't see any when I saw it. 

post #140 of 340

I guess I should have been more specific with my wording? I feel like the movie is trying to be about the culture of the CIA at the time (and the eventual culture shift) among other things.. When I use words and terms like "matter of factly" and "ambivalently," I'm talking about choices the filmmakers made to portray the CIA. I think these were important choices that define the film as a work of fiction based on an "idea" of reality or real events. 

post #141 of 340
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parker View Post

I guess I should have been more specific with my wording? I feel like the movie is trying to be about the culture of the CIA at the time (and the eventual culture shift) among other things.. When I use words and terms like "matter of factly" and "ambivalently," I'm talking about choices the filmmakers made to portray the CIA. I think these were important choices that define the film as a work of fiction based on an "idea" of reality or real events. 

 

I don't see the movie as being about the culture of the CIA at the time.  If you read different accounts, there were many conflicting forces at work, not present in the movie.  I don't think I understand your second point in the context of ZDT.  How? 

post #142 of 340

I guess this is an 'eye of the beholder' thing, but the torture sequence was grossly unsettling to me (especially the box) and made me hate Clarke's character and the whole enterprise.  Just when you think he's about to give up valuable info he starts shouting days of the week and only gives up info on the courier after they trick him.  Nowhere in the film does anyone being tortured supply the CIA with information to stop attacks (in London, KSA or Islamabad).  You even have Mark Strong lament that they can't do anything now that the detainee program is shut down and yet they still find OBL through regular spy techniques and data analysis.

post #143 of 340
Quote:
Originally Posted by yt View Post

I don't think the filmmakers necessarily set out to make pro-torture propaganda, but--whether out of cockiness, ignorance or over-reliance on bad sources--what they did with this script is make the unchallenged case that torture was the effective tactic in the hunt for bin Laden.  That is not a subjective judgment.  They did that, and the movie bears it out.


Except that the torture didn't work.

 

The main character that they show tortured doesn't give up anything of use until they stop torturing him and use another tactic.

 

A character laments that they can't use torture anymore later in the film, but we watched and continue to watch them work more effectively without it.

 

The characters themselves directly call the period of time where they were using torture as a time when they were, "Getting their asses kicked". While they were using torture, all we see are the London bombing, a hotel bombing, a CIA agent nearly gunned down in the street, and a military base bombing. We aren't just told that the torture tactics failed, we are SHOWN them failing miserably.

 

Calling this film pro-torture propaganda is a huge misread.

post #144 of 340

I can't argue this anymore, but I disagreed with what both of you are saying in my earlier posts.
 

post #145 of 340
I've been invited to go see it this weekend but I'm really not sure if I want to join because the subject matter doesn't interest me at all. Is it really worth seeing?
post #146 of 340

If you like political/espionage thrillers, yes. If it were possible to find someone who didn't know it was a true story, I imagine they'd still find a lot to like. The pacing is taut and the acting is top-notch, especially Chastain in the lead.

post #147 of 340

I'm going to see this movie this weekend and Judge it for myself...  BTW: How many Oscars will this movie be nominated for?  I say at least 6,

post #148 of 340

I thought Outlaw Vern's review had a good take on the propaganda issue:

 

 

http://www.outlawvern.com/2013/01/10/zero-dark-thirty/ 

Quote:

Boal and Bigelow originally scripted a movie about the Battle of Tora Bora, infamous as “the time we let bin Laden get away.” I’d like to see that movie too, actually. But after the death of bin Laden they scrapped that idea because they thought this one was now more interesting and relevant. Or, I guess according to Buzzfeed, because they decided to do a complete 180 and become a mouthpiece for CIA propaganda.

 

If propaganda was what they were going for they did a terrible fucking job, accidentally making a warts-and-all portrait that raises difficult questions about our government’s actions. Comparing ZERO DARK THIRTY to TRIUMPH OF THE WILL (as several Buzzfeed commenters did) or even TOP GUN (as the article did) is being a fucking asshole. TOP GUN has rock songs and is about “the need for speed” and shirtless volleyball. ZERO DARK THIRTY lingers in a dank shack where a prisoner has shit in his pants and isn’t allowed to eat or sit down. When TOP GUN was out, supposedly Navy recruiting went way up, they even started setting up tables in theater lobbies. When I saw ZERO DARK THIRTY I saw a guy so upset by its contents he suddenly leapt up and ran out of the theater, stepping on people’s feet because the whole aisle was full. (He definitely wasn’t going to take a shit, ’cause he only came back to get a bag he forgot.) If Michael Hastings has really seen the movie he sure has a funny idea of what is appealing and cool to Americans. He really thinks this is supposed to make people comfortable with our foreign policy? What kind of people does he hang out with?

 

I think the problem many of these editorialists have with the movie is actually that it’s not propaganda. They want to be spoonfed what they’re supposed to think about what they’re seeing, so they can agree or disagree. To process it themselves would not fit into their yay or nay editorial world. They’re looking at a complex piece of art and trying to treat it as a web poll.

EDIT: I deleted some of the original quote, but there's more. The whole review is worth a read.

post #149 of 340

To me, that reads as dismissive and a straw man argument.

 

I think David Edelstein--who positively reviewed the movie and makes some of the same observations as y'all--articulates it perfectly: 

Quote:

But there's nooooo question "Zero Dark Thirty" says the CIA was led to the courier who led to bin Laden by illegal torture, and that anyone opposed was a wussy unwilling to go to what Dick Cheney called "the dark side."

 

Is it true?

 

The administration says no. So does Diane Feinstein, author Peter Bergen, and even some in the CIA.

 

Others say yes, among them screenwriter Mark Boal's CIA sources, and "Black Hawk Down" author Mark Bowden.

 

But to say, as Bigelow and Boal have, that their position isn't pro-torture, they're just reporting the facts, is disingenuous. Even the context is pro-torture.

post #150 of 340

I agree there's no question the movie depicts the torture as leading to the courier.  But the conclusion that "anyone opposed was a wussy unwilling to go to what Dick Cheney calls the Dark Side," is absolutely questionable.  The torture is presented essentially without comment, and with enough remove from the courier that there is plenty of room to debate its actual impact and necessity.  Whether the majority of the audience is actually willing to ponder the difference between correlation and causation is another matter.

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