By Rich Lowry
The Hendricks County Flyer
Fri Feb 01, 2013, 04:26 PM EST
The writer of the screenplay, Mark Boal, compares the letters to the investigations of the 1940s. That is overwrought, but if any other Hollywood production were under bipartisan attack, charges of McCarthyism would be flying thick and fast. If Bigelow were targeted by high elected officials for anything other than making a movie supposedly sympathetic to torture, the Academy would be honoring her as a martyr to the First Amendment.
Bigelow upset the senators and other purveyors of polite opinion by trampling on Washington pieties about interrogation. "Zero Dark Thirty" depicts detainees subjected to enhanced interrogation as providing information - sometimes through their deceptions - that helped the CIA zero in on the man acting as bin Laden's courier.
Boal told Time magazine: "If the general impression you get from this movie is that torture played a role in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, that's because that's true. That's a fact. It doesn't mean they had to torture people or that torture is necessary or torture is morally right."
As his comment suggests, the movie is hardly an advertisement for harsh interrogation. It depicts the CIA program as more frankly violent and uncontrolled than it was, confusing it with the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Detainees weren't beaten up. Interrogators didn't waterboard them on the spot for unsatisfactory answers. Even if in reality the CIA program was more antiseptic and bureaucratic than depicted, the movie leaves no doubt that breaking a man is a brutal business.
That's not enough for the amateur film critics of the world's greatest deliberative body, though. They want to believe that we could have waged a shadowy war against terrorist operatives in the deadly urgent circumstances immediately after Sept. 11 without ever making difficult moral choices. For whatever reason, they are fine with flying trained killers to a compound in Pakistan in the dead of night to shoot the place up and bring bin Laden back in a sack. But they can't bear the thought that any of bin Laden's associates suffered coercive interrogations.
In this case - in perhaps a first - it is Hollywood that has the greater appreciation for complexity and moral realism.
(c) 2013 by King Features Syndicate
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