Why You Should See 'Zero Dark Thirty' & Why Congress Doesn't Want You To

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In a recent interview for her role in ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, Jessica Chastain described the opportunity that the film had, like many others, to gain support from the government. When a production decides to work hand-in-hand with the government, it gains access to federal equipment that would otherwise cost a fortune, supplying helicopters, airplanes and congressional support, which certainly sounds like it wouldn’t hurt. Yet in turn, a film also gives the government complete access to the script. For Zero Dark Thirty the production decided against this opportunity. And by the tail end of the film, it’s clear their reasons why.  

Kathryn Bigelow, Oscar-winning director of The Hurt Locker, was more focused on doing more than just make a movie. Bigelow’s only clear political agenda was starting a conversation of specific aspects of how our government and CIA has handled the war on terrorism. And more than just make a movie she has certainly done, now that she and  screenwriter Mark Boal are the subject of congressional inquiry. The depiction of CIA tactics and, more specifically, the idea that torture aided the hunt for Osama bin Laden, has the government in an uproar.Just months before the Premiere of the film, Senate Intelligence Committee, California Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein, had publicly said that coercive interrogations had played no role in how bin Laden was found. Not only is Feinstein and much of congress not too happy with the film, but they are likely to bring Director Bigelow and her co-producer and screen writer Mark Boal into question, who they feel gained “unusual access to senior officials at the Pentagon and CIA who were deeply involved in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.” The film who’s title card read “first hand accounts of actual events” and presents itself as journalistic account of the hunt for bin Laden, certainly has our government’s attention and now it has ours, which in turn likely heightens congressional inquiry over the sources for the movie. (But it’s just a movie, right Congress.)  

We all know how this story ends, to an extent (and likely much less than we care to discover.) So why should you go see it? It’s a story we’ve all lived through, but few have explored. The film explores torture in the tactics of the CIA, both the torture they’re expected to place on others and, the torture they’re expected to endure. I could go ahead and save you $10.50 if you so desire, (SPOILER ALERT: there is no spoiler alert, since we know what happens in the end) - this is no feel good movie and has been described as “dispassionate and matter-of-fact.” For many the film might not even be entertaining, for the same reason many didn’t find ‘The Hurt Locker’ entertaining, but rather grueling or hitting too close to home. It’s subject may be too real, if not present, to the questions we are living at, but not necessarily asking. 

Whether or not you agree that torture is a necessary component to win the war on terrorism, isn’t necessarily the point. Whatever your political party may be, or may not be, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ will get you to start thinking and talking. It meets where we are at and begs to ask, “Where do you want to go now?”