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Michael J. Totten
Love It, Hate It—but See It « Back to Story

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Kathy Williams, let's send you for a few rounds of water boarding and revisit the topic.
It wasn't bad but pretty slow. Needed another few rounds in the edit room. Also I waned to see JC nude and that never happened so that sucked.
Thank you for this article. I was unsure whether the movie was "agenda laden" and I am happy to learn of the approach taken by Boal and Bigelow. I am much more willing now to invenst my time and money to see the film.
If Holywood made it and from the article we can see this all too clearly, then I can and will avoid it, and urge like minded others to do the same.

When the conservative movement finally discovers that there is a market for entertainment as well as news I'll go back to forking over nine bucks and risking bed bugs to watch a movie. Until then I don't know who these people are who make films these days - they aren't from my culture, and I am not interested in their culture, which is stupidly and insanely corrupt.

Also I used to go to the movies to be entertained, not educated. I don't know what this film pretends to be, but entertainment it ain't.
"Zero Dark Thirty doesn’t tell anyone what to think. Its shows us what we should think about." That works for me.

Still, the first problem with torture is that it produces false information, overwhelmingly so. The second problem is that interrogators become obsessed with the actual interrogations. They stop working on follow-ups with appropriate zeal. The movie missed that second problem, which occurred with these prisoners.

Hunting bin Laden, they had the courier name "Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti" early on and apart from torturing anyone. Could have followed up, didn't. Too busy torturing. Then they were reminded of the name when it was repeated years later. Of course that does not recommend the torture system -- all torture yielded was delay.

The movie ??? Yes, well done. This Bigelow has one helluva talent for detail. And Chastain couldn't be better. If she and Shakespeare's wife take the women's Oscars, all's well.
I am confused still by the casual definition of waterboarding as "torture." It doesn't make sense that soldiers and journalists would voluntarily submit to "torture" simply as part of their careers. By defining torture down, we seem to have lost the real horror of the term. Equating the historical reality of torture with anything that has happened at Guantanamo is misleading and inaccurate. There are many human actions that I abhor and reject without attaching the label "torture."
Zero Dark Thirty causes the keen observer to examine the prevalence of torture & murder in our world and the effects thereof on humans, culture & civilization.

Furthermore, as the press is not covering the obvious (ie: fbi/cia responsibility for the brutal murder & torturous rape of Ambassador Stevens) the movie highlights a hidden agenda of USA public policy globally.

The army, air force, navy, marines the dod, the dia, nsa, nro,fbi,cia cannot claim ignorance w/o admitting gross negligence and incompetence as was the case also on the 911 attack on USA.

regarding USA torture programs which motivate same atrocities against us:

The people of every nation are ultimately responsible and culpable for allowing their corrupt regimes (including & especially the USA) to engage in physical and psychological torture which causes in many instances suicide and in all cases depression and illnesses.

"What makes psychological torture appear less repugnant than physical torture is that the methods—sleep deprivation, stress positions, solitary confinement—taken individually do not seem unendurable. It is their combined use that destroys the adult structures of the person. If we stop to think, each of us would judge being beaten, being blinded, even having one or more limbs amputated, less horrifying than being systematically reduced to psychotic infantilism."
Sorry - I saw it and it was like watching molasses flow uphill
Thank God there are Americans who choose to serve and protect this country by interrogating those who would do harm to this country. Water boarding vs. 3200 lives lost in Sept 2001? Not even up for debate.

The most important point this movie makes in the middle third, where a career CIA upper management pounds the table and accuratey makes the point, "We are at war."

People all around the world HATE us. Get used to it, and man up. We ARE at war, and I thank God there are dedicated Americans who work tirelessly to defend this country.

I am NOT speaking of the hypocrite,Obama....who wants the reflected glory of killing Bin Laden, but doesn't want his hands dirtied with the tactics necessary to get the job done. He is a fool.

Finally, doesn't matter if the director is a pacificst, or not. I thank her for an objective presentation. We ARE at war, and she correctly makes that point.
I am totally against my country's use of torture. But I know it happened and this film treated it in a forthright way. My only criticism of Zero Dark Thirty is that it is a bit too long since most of us know what happened.
A great explanation about the difference between artists and activists .Also took it as a excellent teaching moment for those extreme leftists who don't like freedom of speech .
I am a left of center Democrat and a sometime documentary maker and I agree with the Manhattan Institute- surprise! The campaign against Kathryn is ridiculous and unfair. Its the best film of the year. If anything.the torture scenes should generate renewed conversations about the practice and WHY we went to war in the first place in Iraq on the trumped up baloney that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeldd and Rice (who has completely escaped culpability)fd the world and still are totally denying.
Is there anything more hypocritical than an anti-torture activist? They are sure to be Obama supporters, and his alternative is his whimsical drone-bombing campaign. Which is worse --making al-Qaida prisoners uncomfortable until they cough up info, or killing alleged terrorists in the field (since capture serves no purpose) with the resulting collateral killings (blowback, anyone?)? To date, Obama's drone-bombing campaign has, incidentally, cost the lives of many times more children than died in Newtown.
"Further, this is a thoroughly civilian fantasy snuff film and a misdirection. Killing bin Laden so late in the game accomplished nothing other than easing the guilty consciences of those who decided to abandon the struggle to effect the necessarily generational change needed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The job is unfinished, game over, so sorry boys, we changed our minds. "

The film actually addresses this issue several times, most prominently in the argument between Maya and her boss (Kyle Chandler) after the attempted Times Square bombing--he accuses her of exactly what M24OH accuses the movie of, getting caught in a fantasy of revenge rather then engaging the present struggle. The movie doesn't settle the question, leaving open the question that Maya's obsession with OBL is less than completely virtuous.
The left starts with the proposition that torture is bad, does not work and can never be justified. They are Manichean and the world is black and white. Then along comes a situation where torture arguably has been instrumental in the death of a very evil man who needed to die. How will the liberals deal with this shock to their belief system? Obviously they must attack the message with single minded ferocity, prove that the message is all an evil lie and all who argue against them are involved in a plot against what is good and wonderful. Hence poor Ms Bigalo is in for a rough time.
I'm anti-torture (except in the rarest of circumstances), but also against these anti-torture protesters who might also protest The Hobbit, which depicts trolls in a dehumanizing and demeaning way. Each protester's punishment should be to write on the blackboard 100 times - "It's just a movie."
Great review, the criticism of this movie is an example of why Hollywood has been in decline. Contrast Bigelow's approach to recent Hollywood offerings like Matt Damon's Promised Land. Let the audience make up their own minds? Seriously? Trust the people? Isn't that dangerous?
Gee ... an unblinkered, objective, thorough review about an unblinkered, objective, thorough film ... what is the world of journalism and film-making coming to? ... is this the beginning of a new age of reporting? Based on fact instead of bias?... We can only pray.
Anyone considering the validity of the interrogation methods used in the hunt for Bin Laden, and intel on Al Qaeda in general, ought to read Marc Thiessen's book, "Courting Disaster," before drawing any conclusions.
After watching "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Argo," I came away thinking we are damn lucky we have such heroic individuals as the woman portrayed by Chastain and Ben Affleck. They fought obstacles and the obstinate and won.
How can you have a realistic movie of a fictional event? OBL died long before anyone ever heard of Barack Obama.

Here is the review I did.
I reviewed the film: I strongly recommended people going to see Zero Dark Thirty.

It was a very well done movie.
We went to the movie--one of the very few in the last 12 months--and thought it was excellent.

My one thought on leaving was that the CIA was not hard enough during the interrogations. After 9-11 and the gruesome beheading videos the Muslims seem to love, I was, and continue to be, in favor of much harsher treatment of these terrorists. That's the way they want to play the game, so let's play it that way. No more softball torture.
Why would I, one who actually goes to war, go to see a another Hollywood fantasy about war when they can't even get the title right? No one in the military, absolutely no one, says "zero dark thirty". The phrase is spoken "oh dark thirty".

Further, this is a thoroughly civilian fantasy snuff film and a misdirection. Killing bin Laden so late in the game accomplished nothing other than easing the guilty consciences of those who decided to abandon the struggle to effect the necessarily generational change needed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The job is unfinished, game over, so sorry boys, we changed our minds.

But you can clink your wine glasses in Georgetown and on the upper east side, pat yourselves on the back, and toss a smug nod to the muddy, bloodied fools who take up arms in defense of what they think is their country.

Go see the Hollywood version? You must be kidding. Tell me you're kidding.
I suppose Howard Zinn should have made this movie, that way he could have re-written the facts and dispelled with any inconvenient truths.
See it?

No thanks. He's dead and that's all I want to know.

Not a penny of my money will ever go into the pocket of anyone in the film industry nowadays...
I find it . . . interesting that none of the people who are appalled by "harsh methods" used against people who are, after all, either mass murderers or aid and abet them, have Nothing to say about the horrific Real torture -- being burned alive and torn limb from limb -- that our enemies inflicted on innocent office workers.

Why don't they protest That? If they did, I might have some respect for their alleged pacifism.
I'm surprised that our president took credit for the killing of Ben when his location was forced. He could have said"because the information was gotten in such a despicable way I refuse to kill ben laden. April Fool I was just kidding.
I find it hard to understand why anyone bothers to try taking these movies seriously, any more. Isn't it obvious that the Hollywood types want you to find the "Good guys" are really bad while the "Bad guys" are always the victims? Save your money and look for some more honest entertainment.
I walked out of the movie feeling exactly like Doramin. I thought I was going to see a pr piece for the White House based on all the early rumors pre election. What happened to those twenty minutes glorifying Obama? Instead what I watched was movie/documentary of the eleven year pursuit of Bin Laden that Obama and crew had nothing to do with it and in fact almost derailed it with their constant political angling. The lipstick on the class said it all. This movie was not the one that everyone thought was being made. I have a feeling that the Seals will be going back to being known as the Bush-Cheney assassination team now that old Bin is dead.

And please stop with the torture meme. The "tortured" individual yielded nothing as clearly portrayed. No one is arguing that water boarding did not take place along with loud music, barking dogs and assorted other depravations. Acting outraged about it being depicted is a bit much. Doramin nails it.
Early in his review, Michael J Totten provides the primary reason not to see Zero Dark Thirty. The liberal debate over the legitimacy of torture is a decoy. Indeed, the torture scenes are intended to incite American guilt.

Quoting Kathryn Bigelow, “As a lifelong pacifist,” ... “I support all protests against the use of torture, and, quite simply, inhumane treatment of any kind.” Not only is she against torture—she’s a pacifist. ... Zero Dark Thirty is a hybrid of journalism and drama that includes no moralizing and no op-ed flourishes.”

Ms. Bigelow, indeed, does not, ‘get it.’ As evident from ‘The Hurt Locker,’ Ms. Bigelow is a moral relativist. Consequently she is not a patriot, nor do her films defend Western civilization, nor clearly condemn savage Islamic terrorism. In her films’ view of the world, horrific events just happen.

Films like hers, among “All Quiet on the Western Front,” help eviscerate the moral values of the West.
Ms. Bigelow might try living in Sderot for a year.
"if you think the results were justified by the means..." Surely "if you think the means were justified by the results"?
The legitimate protest of the film is that it is ridiculous propaganda in addition to being more Hollywood PC fiction following a laughably dramatic and administration friendly storyline.
I, for one, admired the juxstaposition of "advanced interrogation techniques"with the outright butchery of those who would do us harm.

The critics of the film have never had their loved ones incinerated by religious fanatics, nor their children murdered by men who hate women and anyone who doesn't think like they do.

Torture degrades us all, it belittles our society, a person who is tortured will tell you anything you want to here. I simply don't believe that what I saw in this film constitutes torture. It is what it is called: advanced interrogation techniques.
Saw it. It resonated from a professional perspective and knowledge, though it seemed a little disorganised and ad hoc. That didn't really ring quite true. The first third went on a little too long.
The middle third was realistic but didn't show the SIGINT and IT support that was used. Not sure why. The analysis against the odds, against the normal group-think that lives in organisations is well done. The professional pressure and ego leading to unfortunate outcomes bit was spot on. Security picket commanders should all watch this movie.

The last third was very well done and very realistic. Overall a reasonably true rendering given the poetic licence needed to put flesh on the historical bones. 4/5 stars.
P.S. Regarding the snarky comments about pacifists, I am philosophically opposed to pacifism but have to say that the most committed pacifists I know are veterans. Including my father, who served in the Army Air Corps, and my godfather, who was blinded in the Battle of the Bulge, recovered his sight, returned to the front and won a boatload of decorations. Neither man would talk about his wartime experiences, but they came away convinced that no one else should be subjected to combat. These pacifists, and a lot of others like them who fought in Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq etc. have nothing to apologize for. Bigelow, on the other hand, who is propagandizing for the current administration - notice how all the nasty torture in "Zero Dark Thirty" takes place on Bush's watch - is claiming to be a pacifist in order to immunize herself. Exactly as phony as Obama's Nobel Peace Prize.
Saw it. Hated it. Leaving aside the torture issue, which has been gnawed upon ad infinitum, this film is a piece of propaganda. Reasonably well made, but ludicrous at times. Exhibit A: the White House scene where we are told that no political considerations are being contemplated in higher reaches of the Obama administration. Only pure deduction and risk assessment. Yeah, right. Oh, and we are meant to believe that the war on terror is being fought essentially by Charlie's Angels. Jessica Chastain's performance was phony from start to finish. One notch above Shelley Hack. Now let's compare "Zero Dark Thirty" to some other recent movies that were real must-sees. "Black Hawk Down" is a fine war film. The action sequences are more kinesthetic and compelling than ZDT's, and moreover Black Hawk makes you really think about Clinton's Somalia policy. Did we understand the situation on the ground? What were the problematics of multilateral force, etc. "Argo" is perhaps closer in genre to ZDT but even more different in spirit. Not a great film but a good one, with flashes of humor - which is as absent from ZDT as from a Steven Seagal flick - and some insight into our enemies' motivations. By contrast, Bigelow and Boal have turned in an acceptably-crafted piece of hack work. As for Bigelow's claim that she is a pacifist...please. Rather like directing a commercial that is a paean for bacon and then claiming to be Glatt Kosher.
" ... it did acquire al-Kuwaiti’s name from harsh methods ... that are condemned as torture by those who condemn acts of torture."

What? Does that make any sense at all?
Come, come...We all know why the Great and Good are outraged at Kathryn Bigelow. She received unprecedented co-operation from the Obama administration, who provided them with advisers from the CIA and SEALs to give them the sort of inside information that traditionally does not come out till twenty or so years after the fact. It was supposed to be understood that the pro quo for this quid was that Ms. Bigelow film a hagiographic campaign commercial depicting Obama as Rambo. Unfortunately, she did NOT do this. She actually had the temerity to make a good movie. So the more obedient Leftys out there in Movieland are taking issue with her. Of course, they can't come out and give the real reason for their outrage so "torture" must fill the bill. Meanwhile, they merely gin up more free publicity for the film and Kathryn Bigelow laughs all the way to the bank.

Good on her.
Long ago I went through US Navy SERE school. It left me with mixed feelings about this stuff. On the one hand, we (volunteers, btw) went through it.

On the other, I wouldn't want to have to put up with weeks of it.

But war is rough business, and it's all a tough call. After all, is subjecting someone to stress positions worse than accidentally killing children in a fire-fight?
It makes sense to me that this is a problematic film. Why not watch something more about information than about keeping interest.
@Boudicca: Amen...your comment was well stated.
Michael Moore likes it too
Well said Michael J. Totten. Zero Dark Thirty is an excellent movie. It's a shame that Kathryn Bigelow was overlooked for a best director nomination but I guess it's because Hollywood wants to anoint Spielberg for Lincoln. After all, awarding a director (Bigelow) twice for two well done "war" movies is out of the question for Hollywood.
Pacifists are so fortunate to have non pacifists to make movies about.
Pacifists are so fortunate to have non pacifists to protect them.