"Zero Dark Thirty" does not support or endorse torture, this according to director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal.
"Before we even wrote it, it was an Obama campaign commercial, which was preposterous," Boal told TheWrap during the film's Los Angeles premiere. "Now it's pro-torture, which is preposterous. We haven’t really talked about that, but I want to start."
Despite rave reviews from critics and the expectation that Bigelow's film will be embraced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, "Zero Dark Thirty" has come under attack for its depiction of torture as an effective interrogation technique. In the film -- which focuses on the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden -- a CIA agent named Dan (Jason Clarke) tortures a prisoner named Ammar (Reda Ketab) in an effort to find out information about the next attack and the whereabouts of the Al-Qaeda leader. The attack, in Khobar, happens despite the intense pressure put on by Dan -- he waterboards Ammar in the film's opening scene -- but later, Ammar reveals the code name of bin Laden's courier during what Boal calls a "civilized lunch." As "Zero Dark Thirty" asserts, that piece of information snowballs into further evidence, which led to bin Laden's Abbottabad compound.
“[The film] shows the [Jessica Chastain] character go back to the research room, and all this information is already there -- from a number of detainees who are not being coerced. That is what’s in the film, if you actually look at it as a movie and not a potential launching pad for a political statement.”
While Boal and Bigelow do say their film is not a documentary, the pair stand by the events they portray onscreen as accurate to what happened. Some members of Congress don't agree, however, and claim uses of torture in the hunt to find bin Laden were not effective.
"It's wrong. It's wrong," Sen. John McCain (R-Ari.) told The Huffington Post. "[W]aterboarding, torture, does not lead to reliable information ... in any case -- not this specific case -- in any case."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who works on the Armed Services Committee with McCain, agreed that waterboarding wasn't what "led to bin Laden's demise."
"It was a lot of good intelligence-gathering from the Obama and Bush administrations, continuity of effort, holding people at Gitmo, putting the puzzle together over a long period of time -- not torture," he told The Huffington Post.
To that end, Bigelow and Boal would agree with Graham. The pair, who won Oscars for "The Hurt Locker," released this statement to The Huffington Post, which jibes with their recent comments to TheWrap.
The film shows that no single method was necessarily responsible for solving the manhunt, nor can any single scene taken in isolation fairly capture the totality of efforts the film dramatizes. One thing is clear: the single greatest factor in finding the world's most dangerous man was the hard work and dedication of the intelligence professionals who spent years working on this global effort. We encourage people to see the film before characterizing it.
For more on the "Zero Dark Thirty" debate, head over to TheWrap.