“Zero Dark Thirty” Makes for Very Uneasy Viewing.

The Godfather movie image Al PacinoIf history has taught us anything, above and beyond the fact that anyone can be killed, it’s that there’s no such thing as being neutral.

Imagine what might have happened between us and our closest neighbour if we hadn’t gone out of our way to secretly help them during the IIWW. Or if we’d prevented the US from using Shannon over the last decade.

Refusing to take a stand amounts to taking the other side.

zero-dark-thirty-posterThere’s been a huge controversy in the US over Zero Dark Thirty’s attitude to torture. Which is baffling. Because, as the Independent On Sunday’s ever reliable Jonathon Romney says here, there’s nothing remotely ambivalent about it whatsoever.

There are two aspects to torture. Is it ethically and morally acceptable? And does it work? And the film is crystal clear on both fronts.

In the fight for good against evil, in the “war on terror” in other words, the good guys do whatever they have to in their efforts to nail the bad guys. And if that means torture, so be it.

Does torture work? Demonstrably. It’s thanks to the information they extracted through torturing their Prisoners Of War that they eventually locate the hide out in Pakistan where a mysterious man is housed.

And in case you were in any doubt, when somebody in the White House says that they need proof that it really is Osama holed up in there, the CIA tell him that they can’t give him that proof, now that the new administration have stopped them, alas, from using torture.

Zero Dark Thirty is Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to the quieter, Oscar winning The Hurt Locker. Once again, it’s an extremely well made film. But this time around, all we get is a conventional shoot-em-up, Hollywood war film. And, like everything else that’s come out of Hollywood since the success of The Titanic, it’s way, way too long. 

zero-dark-thirty-jessica-chastain-sliceIt’s Jaws meets The Guns Of Navarone, in which the lone sheriff, played by Jessica Chastain, comes up against the indifference of her superiors as she fights alone to keep the good townsfolk safe from the evil danger threatening from without.

What you think of it will depend on what your views are on the fact that there are tens of thousands of US and British troops stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in dozens of other countries across the globe.

If you’d like to have been in Times Square celebrating the killing of Osama bin Laden, then the film’s depiction of torture might very well seem to you to be somewhat ambivalent. In that it fails to openly celebrate it.

For the rest of us, it makes for very uneasy viewing indeed.

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