Given the growing debate surrounding “Zero Dark Thirty”, it is now mandatory to have a strong opinion on the movie.
In addition to the excellent posts on this blog, including “Zero Dark Thirty” Debate Needs and Interrogation and “Zero Dark Thirty”: Touchstone Par Exemplar by Jeffrey Stacey the internet is awash with excellent commentary on the movie.
Why does it matter? The vast divide between those who love it and those who hate it tells us something about the politics of war movie-making and the way we look back on the war on terror. The New York Film Critics Circle named 0DT the best picture of 2012 and others defend the movie on the grounds that it is merely entertainment, not a documentary. In contrast, critics like Director Richard Rowley (of the forthcoming documentary “Dirty Wars”) calls it propaganda and an endorsement or normalization of torture while Slavoj Zizek asks how audiences would feel if the Holocaust was presented in the detached cool way that torture is presented in 0DT.
Does 0DT condone torture? Does it have a political position? Is it just entertainment? How does it compare to Kathryn Bigelow’s academy award winning “Hurt Locker”?
To help you answer these questions, follow the links:
The Guardian’s Phillip French called 0DT “a riveting thriller to match The Hurt Locker,” and- like all terrible reviews, pretty much summarizes the entire movie (in case you don’t plan on watching it but want to sound like you have).
In contrast, the New York Review of Books describes the film’s torture scenes as “at once rough and bland” and calls the movie “disturbing” and “misleading.”
Surprisingly, Michael Moore comes to the defense of 0DT, claiming that the overall message of the movie is “[t]hat good detective work can bring fruitful results — and that torture is wrong.” He goes on to declare the movie a “21st century chick flick” due to the female direction, production, distribution, and star.
Picking up on this gender theme, feminist scholar Zillah Eisenstein blasts the movie as an un-feminist symbol of American empire. The highlight of her piece for me was the following quote: “do not justify or explain US war revenge with a pretty red-head white woman with an “obsession” to catch the mastermind of 9/11. This film is not to be made seemingly progressive or feminist because it presents a female CIA agent as central to the demise of Osama. Nor should any of us think that it is “good” that Maya is female, or that several females had an important hand in the murder of Osama. There is nothing feminist in revenge.”
Keeping with Al Jazeera, a few months ago on the program Empire, Oliver Stone, Michael Moore, and Christopher Hedges weigh in on the role of Hollywood in shaping American views on war (it includes a lengthy discussion of the Hurt Locker).
Happy Opinion Making!