Episode 621: Sundance 2019 Wrap-Up

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3 Responses

  1. Thomas says:

    I’ve never understood Zero Dark Thirty’s reputation for endorsing torture or depicting it as the way we got to Bin Laden, because the movie seems to actually do the opposite in a pretty obvious way.

    Critics of torture say the better way, and the way that’s actually gotten us the most important info, is to build a rapport and treat the suspect humanely. Zero Dark Thirty seems to agree. We do see Jason Clarke torturing a suspected terrorist. Later in the movie, this suspect gives crucial information that leads them to Bin Laden’s courier, and ultimately to his assassination. But the critical point is, when he divulges this information, he’s not being tortured. He’s sitting outside at a table full of fruit and sweets, having a respectful conversation with Jason Clarke and Jessica Chastain. This is the context in which he provides the crucial information.

    Am I crazy, or doesn’t this demonstrate that it wasn’t torture that ultimately worked, but treating the suspect humanely and building a rapport? And in turn, couldn’t you reasonably conclude the filmmakers endorse humane treatment over torture? They’re making a direct cinematic correlation, showing the audience that torture = no info or bad info, and humane treatment = good info. I just don’t understand how, despite this quite obvious filmmaking choice, people widely still regard the movie as supporting torture or claiming it was the key to getting Bin Laden.

    Admittedly it’s been a few years since I’ve seen it, so if I’m missing something huge or mis-remembering, someone please tell me. But in all the stuff I’ve read about the movie, I don’t recall anyone talking about this.

    • Battleship Pretension says:

      I think the complaint comes from the implication that the “humane” treatment after the torture is all part of the same interrogation technique. The Report argues that the crucial information came from someone who had not been tortured at all beforehand.

      – David

  2. Thomas says:

    Fair enough. But I feel it’s at least debatable whether the movie presents torture as necessary to the eventual good outcome (it’s never struck me that way). Perhaps the filmmakers wanted to show both sides, that torture happened but ultimately wasn’t what worked, and for purposes of screenplay economy that was their compromise (though it obviously wasn’t received that way by many)

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