Deadline, in the course of writing up Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s Zero Dark Thirty, which chronicles the efforts of the team that finally found and killed Osama bin Laden, notes a juxtaposition the movie makes between the Obama administration’s stance on torture
There were charges that in the heat of the Presidential campaign the Obama administration was givng unprecendented cooperation since obviously a positive film about the capture of Bin Laden couldn’t hurt his re-election chances. The filmmakers always denied that and in fact in the finished product unveiled today Obama is only seen or heard one time in newsreel footage talking about how the U.S. would never tolerate inhumane means of torture in order to elicit information even as the film’s early scenes vividly shows such uses as waterboarding and other horrific acts to get the info they desire. Not exactly a pretty picture.Other than that there is no mention of President Obama and his efforts to make this happen except occasion references to the intense interest of the President as to how this operation was going to be enacted. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is never seen or mentioned.
I can’t tell from this description if the movie’s conclusion is that torture works, or if it’s presented as a tactic that failed and is replaced by others that produce higher-quality information. This was a debate that began immediately after President Obama announced bin Laden’s death, and however it shakes out, Zero Dark Thirty will reignite this enormously difficult conversation, which has lapsed somewhat in fact of bin Laden’s death. Either way, this—and advertising for the movie that suggests that our invasion of Iraq was part of the hunt for bin Laden—suggests that Zero Dark Thirty‘s politics are going to be much more complicated than an Obama reelection vehicle would have been. Anyone who knows Bigelow’s work at all would have known how ludicrous thinking she’d produce that kind of movie is: she’s far too cagey a filmmaker for that. And it suggests that the Obama administration’s assistance to the filmmakers is something more complicated than a collaboration with a friendly filmmaker, and certainly more of a gamble.