Every time I eat a hot dog, I close my eyes. It’s a deal my mind makes with my body. I know the hot dog is gross, made in a way that would make me gag, but the taste is so good. So I chew, swallow, then open my eyes. The controversy surrounding the number one movie at the box office this week, Academy Award winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s tour de force action flick about the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in 2011, Zero Dark Thirty, is America’s hot dog.
A month before the 2012 Presidential Election, conservatives were freaking out like teenaged girls over Justin Bieber hater tweets, that Zero Dark Thirty could help get President Barack Obama be re-elected. The accusation was lobbied that filmmakers Bigelow and Mark Boal had been leaked classified documents by the dude who took out Bin Laden, President Obama. After showing their cards, literally, it was proven that neither Bigelow nor Boal had any help from the White House or Democrats in making Zero Dark Thirty. This didn’t stop Bigelow from being criticized by many Hollywood people that she was glorifying torture. Water-boarding and other methods are allegedly the way United States Intelligence officials tracked Bin Laden to his secret lair in Pakistan. Uh huh, lefties and righties are mad at Zero Dark Thirty. This movie must be great, because it’s ticking everyoff off.
It’s important to know facts as we talk fiction.
1) Kate Bigelow and Mark Boal were in Pakistan and Afghanistan around the time Osama Bin Laden was assassinated. They were researching a project called The Battle of Tora Bora, about the failed attempt in December 2001 to find and kill Bin Laden, just after the horrible crime he masterminded in September of that year, in America. Bigelow and Boal, who should’ve made a sitcom in 1993 with those names, scrapped their project and started using their Middle Eastern and Intelligence community contacts to make Zero Dark Thirty.
2) Columbia Pictures wanted to release their movie in early 2013 after the election and after a good amount of time had passed since Bin Laden had been killed, to handle delicate emotions regarding the operation. But when filmmakers had to show evidence they were acting alone and when the studio realized how good their movie was, they allowed it to be viewed at festivals to get it considered for Oscars and Golden Globes.
3) Torture was used to get information to find Osama Bin Laden. The movie doesn’t lie. It’s a dramatization of how officials went about finding Bin Laden and killing him. The character Jessica Chastain (who won a Golden Globe Sunday night for her role) plays, Maya, is an amalgam of several people.
As an American, and a liberal one, I’m not a fan of torture, brutality or crossing moral lines in the sand set by our enemies to achieve anything, much less a greater good as killing Osama Bin Laden. Water-boarding was used and that’s not okay, but it happened. The reaction by many actors and members of the Academy (Ed Asner and Martin Sheen are leading the anti-movie charge) to have Zero Dark Thirty either blackballed or intentionally voted against for it’s nomination as Best Picture is shortsighted and smacks of censorship. Bigelow was snubbed for Best Director for the Oscars. She lost at the Golden Globes. I think, if punishment was needed for her showing the violence and degradation used in the hunt and kill of Osama Bin Laden, then she’s received plenty. If Zero Dark Thirty wins an Oscar for best film, then it’s because of merit, not torture.
The major problem is the debate we seem to be dancing around. Whatever armed forces, intelligence agents, and other authorities did to rid this planet of an evil presence as Osama Bin Laden, worked. No one, not even this movie, has ever stated or proven that torture is the only way Bin Laden was taken down. It was an element, allegedly. Again, this is a movie, and the filmmakers have never said otherwise. While we can argue that part of our soul, as a nation, is hurt as a result, fine. That’s a great talk over dinner, drinks, and a viewings of Bigelow’s other epic films, also fictional, The Hurt Locker and Point Break.
I’ve seen thirty minutes of Zero Dark Thirty and read the script. It’s a terrific story and tough, but well done film. The acting by Jessica Chastain is worth a small part of my soul. I admit that during a scene where torture was used (it’s equal in awfulness to anything in Pulp Fiction), I closed my eyes. When I opened them, I’d chewed, swallowed, and accepted whatever the hot dog was doing to my body. I suggest intellectually dishonest politicians, jealous artists, and unnecessarily fearful movie goers do the same.