REVIEW: Kathryn Bigelow's Angular 'Zero Dark Thirty' Is A Stunning, Riveting Achievement

Movieline Score: 9
Zero Dark Thirty Review

Kathryn Bigelow's angular thriller Zero Dark Thirty begins and ends with events that have been seared into public memory — the attacks on September 11, 2001 and the death of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011 in Abbottabad, Pakistan, two incidents that bookended a decade in which America's sense of security and place in the world were radically shaken.

The film presents the story of what happened in that dark space between.  Using a combination of whatever details screenwriter and journalist Mark Boal could turn up in his research and cautious fiction, Zero Dark Thirty details how the U.S. was finally able to track down and kill the elusive head of the organization responsible for the worst terrorist attack on our soil.

But at almost two and a half hours long — an epic running time that never seems excessive but makes you feel the stretch of the years being chronicled — the film also teases your attention away from those known events, and brings it to the gritty, exhausting and sometimes ugly work being done on the ground and the type of people who engage in it.

It's a curious thing that two of the awards season's most significant films are stealthy procedurals: Lincoln, which beneath the surface gloss of a prestige biopic is a vivid showcase of the messy, difficult means by which the amendment to outlaw slavery was passed, and Zero Dark Thirty, which is an examination of how contemporary warfare has so much more to do with information than with sending troops out into battle. Both reveal the strenuous, time-consuming and ethically complicated efforts behind their well-known achievements.

While Steven Spielberg's film uses these exertions to bring animation, prickliness and warmth to characters that could have been wax-museum distant, Bigelow's consciously holds its emotions at arm's length, where they'll be less likely to interfere with the work being done. Such is the choice made by its heroine, known only by her first name, Maya, and played by Jessica Chastain as a crisply dedicated but green CIA analyst with few other interests in her life other than tracking down bin Laden — a target she comes to fixate on as she builds experience and confidence.

Zero Dark Thirty plays out in the shrouded and unpretty backstage of the War on Terror: embassy cubicles, dusty military camps and black sites where detainees undergo "enhanced interrogation techniques" that the film does not soften. Maya arrives fresh from D.C. to witness a prisoner being worked on by Dan (Jason Clarke, slipping easily from sardonic to savage). Sleep deprivation, waterboarding, confinement boxes and beatings — Maya doesn't take easily to these techniques but doesn't shrink from them either. Soon she's ordering them herself as she searches for information about Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, rumored top al-Qaeda courier and the man she thinks is key to finding bin Laden.

The early fuss by Obama opponents who claimed the film (originally slated for an October release) would be a propagandizing election tool is laughable in context. The story starts long before Obama's arrival on the presidential stage, and his on-screen presence in a single scene, in which Maya and her colleagues watch his televised speech about America not engaging in torture, is representative, in a wincingly complicated way, of how the new administration's stance will complicate and slow what they're doing.

Zero Dark Thirty eschews the personal by design. We know nothing about Maya's background, she has little enough of a life to explore outside of her work and doesn't take to others easily. Our sense of her emerges slowly by way of Chastain's elegantly steely performance. Maya doesn't tend to let down her guard in front of others, and so our ideas about her inner life come from glimpses around its edges and through those moments when she lets things slip — from the warmth that bleeds into her interactions with her coworker and eventual friend Jessica (Jennifer Ehle) or the way she takes to writing the number of days of bureaucratic inaction on important information she uncovered on the door of her boss George's (Mark Strong) office.

Maya is suited to this life, as draining and dangerous as it is, and Chastain's physical delicacy provides stark contrast to the character's strength. She's an unconventional action heroine with an amusingly atypical (for a female lead) interest in making nice with those around her.

Like Jeremy Renner's bomb tech in The Hurt Locker, Maya hones herself to become the perfect tool for the job at hand. But Zero Dark Thirty is less interested in movie indulgences than its predecessor, which may be why its coolness makes it an easier effort to admire than to lose yourself in. Its periodic action sequences — involving two very disturbing bombings, a shootout and the raid itself, which is staged in urgent darkness and threaded with misgivings about whether or not it's a mistake — are brilliantly staged, but they're stations along the journey, to be braved, pushed past or endured.

Maya's true place is at a computer or making her case with growing conviction in a conference room as important men played by Kyle Chandler, Harold Perrineau, James Gandolfini, Mark Duplass and others are confronted by the force of her will, and the SEALs brought in to storm the compound (among them Chris Pratt, Taylor Kinney and Joel Edgerton) eye her with wary respect.

Zero Dark Thirty makes you feel every step of Maya's journey, but it's her impressive achievement and that of the film itself that we're left contemplating, not her humanity — a stunningly well-realized whole with few soft spots to latch onto.


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  • Ryan G says:

    Whoa...nothing about torture is complicated. It's illegal, it's morally wrong, and it doesn't work. And I can guarantee it didn't help anyone find Osama bin Laden. Period! No gray areas, no room for flamboyant hand-wringing or chin-stroking about how far we're willing to go to protect our freedoms. Torture is a stupid idea that was carried out stupidly. To portray it as any kind of legitimate tool is ignorant, irresponsible, and propagandistic.

    Also propagandistic: it sounds like the movie omits entirely the whole episode where America recruited a doctor to pretend-vaccinate Pakistani kids in bin Laden's neighborhood to get blood samples for DNA testing. I guess Bigelow (or the government officials she "consulted" with in making this movie) decided audiences couldn't handle that particular truth.

    I loved The Hurt Locker, and Point Break is a blast. I'm sure this movie is great, too. But it's really disappointing to hear Bigelow is helping the CIA justify all its pointlessly sadistic waterboarding and stress positions and relentless beatings and freezing rooms and chaining inmates to the floor until they defecate all over themselves with this pap.

    • PETA is fond of saying that animal experimentation is scientifically worthless and morally wrong. This line of argument is a demonstration of moral cowardice; if they had guts, they'd say that it's scientifically useful but we should give it up anyway. Instead they go for the "easy out", one that pretends it's painless to do what they think is right. That they probably think this is actually true is irrelevant -- simply confirmation bias.

      Ditto with torture.

      If someone says that yes, torture can work, but it's wrong and so we should give it up anyway, that's a position worthy of some respect. Anything else is squalid evasion.

      • Ryan G says:

        Do you know anything about who the U.S. tortured and how the U.S. tortured them? It's really not even close. Come back after you've read Jane Mayer's The Dark Side. Don't defend a position based on episodes of 24 you've watched.

      • Ryan G says:

        Which is the problem. If an agency like the CIA does a dumbass thing in secret, we've got nothing else to go on so we fill in the blanks with episodes of 24 and that Bigelow movie we watched. We're not talking Kiefer Sutherland or Jessica Chastain here. We're talking James Mitchell and Gen. Geoffrey Miller, people with no experience in interrogation who elbow their way into interrogation rooms, who've read a couple of books about dogs and learned helplessness and have decided that means a good thing to do is put human beings in dog cages. The people being tortured are not Abu Nazir. They're Dilawar. They're Maher Arar. The CIA agents aren't looking for actual intelligence. They're looking for someone to say Iraq has biological weapons. (See al-Libi, Ibn al-Shaykh.) You want an effective tool to get people to say whatever you want to stop the pain, to help you make whatever bogus claim you want to make? Sure, I'll agree torture is an effective tool for that purpose.

        The thing is, at a certain point, the CIA stopped even asking questions while they were torturing people. They were torturing them just to torture them. What is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed going to tell you the 183rd time you waterboard him that he hasn't told you by the 182nd?

        Do the reading, bud. Torture doesn't work.

        • Chris Prust says:

          I disagree. There are many people inside the CIA (including the man who ran the program) and several CIA directors who have said that torture gave some information that lead to Bin Laden. Was it key information? Who knows, probably not but maybe. The problem is that many people who say it doesn't work come from one specific political perspective and those who say it does work come from another political perspective. So in the end it is difficult to know who is telling the truth. If your interested in reading more, the writer of "Black Hawk Down" (Mark Bowden) wrote a book about this subject and here is a link to an article of his:

          Basically he says that there is a very strong likelihood that at least some information was obtained by torture, but read it and draw your own conclusions. And I don't mean to be rude but when you say "I can guarantee it [torture] didn't help anyone find Osama bin Laden" you sound ignorant. You clearly aren't in the CIA and therefore have no more access to information than the rest of us. There are many people (including the people listed above) that believe that torture played some role in finding UBL (doesn't mean it was the key thing). There are very clear shades of gray and to say there isn't is ignorant.
          I agree with S.M. Stirling; if you are against torture be against it for moral reasons. Don't be
          against it based on if it works or not because chances are there has been at least some information obtained by torture (considering we have been doing it since Bill Clinton and probably long before that too).

          • Ryan G says:

            Listen, if you have a gun that hits the target 5% of the time and one of your friends the other 95%, I don't call that a working gun. Unfortunately and to Bigelow's eternal shame, in Zero Dark Thirty she shows us a working gun. She stacks the deck for torture by not showing the most compelling and yes, pragmatic, arguments against it.

            Also: the CIA taped its torture sessions and destroyed the tapes. What does that tell you about the CIA's reliability on the subject? I know America is an authoritarian police state, but I thought I could still expect a tiny amount of skepticism from its citizens.

            Finally, if you knew anything about Mark Bowden, you'd know he sold out to the CIA for access a long time ago. Read Jane Mayer if you want to see what torture looks like.

            Torture is wrong. Stupid people torture. Jesus, I can't believe we're actually at a point where that's even in question.

          • Ryan G says:

            And really, who are you calling ignorant? I'm not the one who rushes online to debate whether torture gets "results" zero percent of the time or a negligible percent of the time.

          • Chris Prust says:

            You just admitted that it is possible to obtain information from torture (" if you have a gun that hits the target 5% of the time and one of your friends the other 95%") and you still haven't addressed the subject that the article brings up; that the first person to tell the CIA about the existence of the courier was Mohamedou Ould Slahi who was tortured by the Jordanians for information. And Mark Bowden has "sold out to the CIA for access". I have no idea how you came to that conclusion. Just because he has ideas that are contrary to your own does mean he is a sell out (I mean he wrote "Black Hawk Down" one of the most famous and respected books of the last 20 years). And I haven't rushed into a debate at all. I merely pointing out some pretty obvious points (that many other people on this blog have point out to you as well). I am not even a supporter of torture. I think that it is a practice that should be stopped and lowers our standing in the world. But, I also face facts, which are that torture can work. I don't take the easy way out and say that it never works and so it's a cut and dry issue. Torture can (and probably has) worked but I think we should stop it anyway. And if torture did work would you still be against it? Your whole argument seems to be based around the idea that torture never works (a point that is hotly contested by many people). I think a stronger argument is to argue from a moral perspective rather than a practical one.

          • Ryan G says:

            Jesus Christ.

          • Ryan G says:

            You don't have to make a moral argument because the factual argument for torture is NOT. EXACTLY. ROCK. SOLID.

            Ask Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times, if the CIA only tortured to obtain information (as opposed to for punishment, sadistic delight, what have you).

            Ask Ibn al Shaykh al-Libi how reliable the information is that you get from torture. (And whether unreliability is, in fact, a side benefit.)

            Ask the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, and thousands of American soldiers, whether they would prefer the CIA hadn't tortured al-Libi into giving them a fake link between Iraq and Al Qaeda to support Bush's case for war.

            Ask any of the many in the rest of the world who have been radicalized against us, what part America's decision to torture has played in that.

            Ask Dick Cheney, David Addington, and James Mitchell if they had any experience in an interrogation room before they developed the torture program.

            Ask any of the trained, professional FBI interrogators who objected to torture how much information they were able to get out their prisoners compared to how much information their prisoners gave under CIA torture.

            Sure, maybe someone will give you an actual fact if you threaten to punch them in the face. But maybe they'll lie to you to stop you from punching them in the face. Or maybe if you punch them in the face they'll stop talking entirely because after that who wants to give you the satisfaction?

            TORTURE. IS. NOT. SCIENCE. It's torture. I beg of you, please just read the barest amount of Jane Mayer.

            And regarding the Bowden nonsense, read Alex Gibney's thing on Zero Dark Thirty.

            Jesus. Christ.

          • Ryan G says:

            By the way, many congratulations on your openmindedness. "I'm personally against torture, but I can understand other points of view."

          • Chris Prust says:

            Well it seems that no amount of evidence to the contrary will change your mind. Certainly there are many smart people (like Jane Mayer) who think torture is useless. But there are also many smart people who think the opposite. So I suppose we must agree to disagree. PS you made up a quote of mine ("I'm personally against torture, but I can understand other points of view"). That is not my quote. If your are going to quote someone make sure it is accurate.

          • Ryan G says:

            By definition, there's no such thing as a smart person who thinks torture is useful. At least not for the purpose of getting reliable information. Which, I repeat, is not why people torture. I know you want to live in a world where everything is done for a good reason, but that's not the world we live in.

            And I would not call claims by CIA torturers (and their servile stenographers) "evidence." Remember when I told you how the CIA destroyed all its torture tapes? You think if it got anything useful out of torture those tapes (and the torture program) might still be around today?

            I'm so sorry I can't be as enlightened and objective about torture as you are. Maybe that's because it's TORTURE.

          • Ryan G says:

            I know everyone really, really wants torture to be this magical last resort that always works, because then we get to indulge in these "wincingly complicated" middlebrow thought experiments about how many moral scruples we're willing to sacrifice to protect our country. I agree that would be a really fun conversation to have, because it would give us all the opportunity to feel really smart about ourselves, but that's really not what torture is. Torture is what happens when you put someone who is (1) an idiot or (2) a sadist, or (3) both, in a room with a prisoner.

            I can only speculate as to Dick Cheney and the CIA's motives on this one, but I know they really screwed up and ignored a lot of intelligence pre-9/11 that 9/11 was going to happen. Instead of facing up to that, I'm guessing they were more comfortable with "9/11 happened because libruls didn't let us torture." Also they had a lot of aggression to take out because they were pissed the terrorists made them look bad.

            And now that torture is making them look bad, they call up Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal to help them justify it. Of course, if there's anything a Serious Filmmaker covets in this day and age, it's a tone of moral ambiguity (hello, Christopher Nolan), so I'm sure it was easy to convince Bigelow and Boal to omit whatever facts they needed to about torture to make it seem more complicated than it is.

            Any audience coming away from an objective portrayal of torture--an accurate portrayal of who tortured and why, and the best reasons not to--would be disgusted and outraged. Unfortunately, "not taking sides about torture" is not the same as being objective about torture. And audiences are coming away ambivalent. That's an indictment of Bigelow and Boal, both as filmmakers and human beings.

          • Ryan G says:

            The moral of this story is you people don't feel as strongly about torture as you feel about people who take absolutist positions against it. Good to know.

      • Ryan G says:

        So maybe put a little LESS blind faith in your government? You really come off as naive here. If the U.S. does something in secret, my first impulse isn't to leap immediately to its defense or decide everything it does must be for a totally legitimate reason. And given everything we already know about the Bush Administration, it's a whole new level of Panglossian to think the policies they carried out in secret were any more thoughtful or effective than, for example, the response to Katrina or the Iraq war.

    • Jesse says:

      "It sounds like the movie omits entirely the whole episode where America recruited a doctor to pretend-vaccinate Pakistani kids in bin Laden's neighborhood to get blood samples for DNA testing."

      This episode is in fact shown in the movie. What were you basing your assumption on?

      • Ryan G says:

        I haven't seen the movie. But based on how the movie treats torture, I'm sure that Bigelow shows that we didn't actually give the kids working vaccines; that we didn't get any information about bin Laden's whereabouts; and that we caused incredible damage to legitimate vaccination efforts in Pakistan. Because she's absolutely GREAT at showing the actual "tradeoffs" involved with torture.

        That's sarcasm, BTW. Alison says the movie doesn't soften torture. But showing torture working is softening torture. Showing only guilty people being tortured is softening torture. Not showing the profound and enduring psychological effects of torture on torture victims, on torturers, and on those who witness and try to prevent torture (Alyssa Peterson RIP), is softening torture.

        Even describing torture, or the pretend-vaccination program, as a "tradeoff" is softening those things. "Tradeoff" implies some benefit. The sad fact is the CIA tortured and murdered a lot of people for no reason, and caused a WHOLE lot of people who aren't Americans, and who are therefore halfway informed about these things, to hate us. (Hello, PSY.)

        • J. Skinner says:

          I have seen the movie. It's not 'about' the use of torture really but I'll play along.

          "I'm sure that Bigelow shows that we didn't actually give the kids working vaccines."

          It is heavily implied.

          "that we didn't get any information about bin Laden's whereabouts."

          To say that no information useful to the torturer has ever been obtained through the use of torture is idiotic. The question should be a moral one, not one of practicality. This is something the movie acknowledges, boldly in my opinion, without a moral statement as facile as either "torture is bad" or "torture was essential in the hunt for Bin Laden."

          "But showing torture working is softening torture."

          Define 'working.' One piece of useful information pertaining to Bin Laden among dozens and dozens more is obtained (in the narrative) through torture. One very big point the movie makes is that torture did not help prevent further terrorist attacks after 9/11, and that finding and killing Bin Laden was largely a symbolic if cathartic act that may have distracted investigators from more important matters.

          "Not showing the profound and enduring psychological effects of torture on torture victims, on torturers, and on those who witness and try to prevent torture is softening torture."

          The movie does show the physical and psychological effects of torture on its victims. Again, not sure what you based that assumption on.

          • Ryan G says:

            OK, you've addressed (poorly) 3 points. How about addressing all the other ones?

            FYI, my definition of "working" is "one piece of useful information is obtained through torture". It's also disgusting how (as Alison tells it) Jessica Chastain torturing someone is portrayed as some kind of rite of passage in this movie. And don't argue that Jessica Chastain is supposed to be an antihero. Antiheroes aren't described as "elegantly steely".

            "Torture is bad and doesn't work" is about as accurate and non-facile a statement as you can make. But movies like this make it seem very deep and intellectual to pretend that "to torture or not to torture?" is a complicated, ambiguous question. (Most of those same intellectuals pretended like "to invade Iraq or to not invade Iraq?" was also a complicated, ambiguous question.)

          • Ryan G says:

            "The movie does show the physical and psychological effects of torture on its victims. Again, not sure what you based that assumption on."

            So they follow a torture victim, post-release, back to his home, where he has serious PTSD, has trouble getting through a sentence without sobbing, has trouble reconnecting with family and friends?

            Or maybe they show someone being tortured to death? Or someone trying, repeatedly, to kill himself by banging his head against the wall? Or someone chained to the floor, naked, in a hot room, without access to a bathroom?

            Do they show someone being turned over to the Egyptians and shocked repeatedly with cattle prods?

          • J. Skinner says:

            "So they follow a torture victim, post-release, back to his home, where he has serious PTSD, has trouble getting through a sentence without sobbing, has trouble reconnecting with family and friends?"

            They show him being strung up, beaten and water-boarded in a roughly 15-minute sequence. He defecates in his pants and is mocked by the torturer. He is later stuffed in a confining wooden box while he screams in pain. He is sleep-deprived; the torturer describes the psychological effects of this in an attempt to fool him into thinking he has already given up information when he hasn't.

            Please actually see the movie before you feel the need to comment on it further.

          • Ryan G says:

            Please actually read up on torture before you comment on it further.

      • Ryan G says:

        Question: Do you think a CIA agent or a soldier, watching this movie, will feel better or worse about choosing to torture a detainee?

        Obviously the answer is "better" because then you get played by Jessica Chastain and you get the bad guy in the end. (If you're Alyssa Peterson, who killed herself instead of participating in torture, you do NOT get played by Jessica Chastain.)

        Question: Do you think CIA agents and soldiers will be watching this movie?

  • Ryan G says:

    It's like filming a three hour tick-tock glorifying FEMA's tough decisions during Katrina. And really, is there any American institution more evil and unaccountable than the CIA during the war on terror? Torturing people, slaughtering thousands and terrorizing hundreds of thousands with robot planes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia...

    Argh, I probably seem like a crazy person. I've just been rattled ever since the election because either no one knows or no one cares about this stuff, and I don't know which is worse. And then a movie like this comes out and it's treated seriously when it's full of such obvious lies and omissions. Riefenstahl would be proud.

  • Jeffrey says:

    This sentence doesn't make sense: "Zero Dark Thirty makes you feel every step of Maya's journey, but it's her impressive achievement and that of the film itself that we're left contemplating, not her humanity — a stunningly well-realized whole with few soft spots to latch onto." That said, it still somehow makes me more excited to this movie.

  • Jeff says:

    It's sad that while reading this review, my mind instinctively thought "WAAAAAAALLLLT" at the one mention of Harold Perrineau.

  • Ryan G says:

    OK, for those screaming SEE THE MOVIE. Everything I've written in these comments is a legitimate response to the review. Look at some of the following excerpts from the review:

    "Maya doesn't take easily to these techniques but doesn't shrink from them either." "Shrink from them" is loaded language. Those who torture are bold, brave, and tough; those who "shrink from torture" (like Alyssa Peterson, who committed suicide rather than participate in torture) are wimps.

    Maya, a torturer, is described in this review as "elegantly steely", as having "strength"; and as confronting powerful men with the "force of her will" and earning their (and by proxy, I'm assuming our) "wary respect". If Alison has come away with the impression that torturers are somehow Strong and Noble (as opposed to stupid and sadistic), I can only imagine what the takeaway is going to be for torturers.

    "[Obama's] on-screen presence in a single scene, in which Maya and her colleagues watch his televised speech about America not engaging in torture, is representative, in a wincingly complicated way, of how the new administration's stance will complicate and slow what they're doing." Look what Alison says here: an anti-torture stance "will" complicate and slow what they're doing. This is a bald statement that torture is effective, either by Alison or (unchallenged by Alison) by the movie, as interpreted by Alison: If the CIA is not allowed to torture, it will be harder to find bin Laden.

    Other things I gather about this movie, based on the review: The only people being tortured are guilty people who have valuable information. (Not remotely true in real life; see Dilawar and Maher Arar.) Torture is 100% effective, in that the only torture scene in the movie yields valuable, accurate information. (Not true in real life; torture is not remotely effective, and it's not intended to be--see below.) Torturers are actually seeking legitimate information, rather than using torture to extract false confessions. (See Ibn al Shaykh al-Libi, below.) And in a movie that purports to be interested in showing people making "tough choices", the movie does a terrible job showing the damage torture does to U.S. standing in the world (it's caused many, like PSY for example, to hate us), to the long-term physical and mental health of torture victims, and to the long-term mental health of torturers and those who witness and try to prevent torture. Strangely, those don't seem to really show up in the list of "cons".

    This review, and what the review communicates about the movie, belies a LOT of ignorance about what actually happened under America's global torture regime. In reality, as was often the case in the Bush Administration, the Administration replaced officials who actually knew what they were doing with apparatchiks who had bizarre, disconnected ideas of how the world works. (Like Michael Brown at FEMA.) Remember, these are the same people who scoffed at the "reality-based community" and bragged about how they "create our own reality." In the case of torture, they (literally, in the case of al-Libi) pulled suspects out of interrogation rooms, away from trained, experienced professionals, and handed them over to a bunch of people, either Americans or torturers in other countries, who hit things when they're upset, or when they want to feel powerful and manly. I.e., stupid people. Sadists.

    The people who developed this torture regime were James Mitchell and Gen. Geoffrey Miller, also not trained interrogators. Mitchell heard a few lectures by a deeply conservative pop psychologist, Martin Seligman, about something called "learned helplessness"--based on studies in which dogs lost their will to live when constantly shocked with electricity--and decided "science" demanded that we treat suspects like dogs, putting them in dog cages, on leashes, etc. Because that's how stupid and literal-minded Mitchell and Miller are.

    There's been a lot of debate in these comments about whether torture "works". No. It doesn't work. At least, not in the sense of getting accurate information. Because that's NOT WHAT TORTURE IS INTENDED TO DO. James Mitchell and Gen. Geoffrey Miller brought in because David Addington, Cheney's chief of staff, relentlessly demanded that the CIA come up with some connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. When the actual interrogators failed to find a connection--because a connection DIDN'T EXIST--Addington turned up the heat on the CIA (he is a deeply unpleasant person) to obtain the information by whatever means necessary. So, spurred by Addington, the CIA created their own reality. Mitchell and Miller and their team of stupid sadists who like hitting things were brought in and the information (fake) was tortured out of Ibn al Shaykh al-Libi, among, I'm assuming, many others. And al-Libi's "confession" was referenced in many speeches in the run-up to a war that has cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and thousands of American lives.

    Regarding the CIA agent played by Jessica Chastain, Jane Mayer's "The Dark Side" references someone in the CIA's Bin Laden unit, a "tall, pale-skinned, spiky-haired redhead who wore bright red lipstick" described as "particularly controversial among many of her male colleagues for her ferociousness" and "reviled by some male colleagues for what they regarded as her aggression," who "was so excited [after Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured that] she flew at government expense to the black site where Mohammed was held so that she could personally watch him being waterboarded." She "had no legitimate reason to be present during Mohammed's interrogation. She was not an interrogator. 'She thought it would be cool to be in the room,' a former colleague said. ... Afterward, two sources said, word leaked out about her jaunt and superiors at the CIA scolded her for treating the painful interrogation as a show. 'She got in some trouble. They told her, 'It's not supposed to be entertainment,' the former colleague disclosed."

    I'm not comfortable living in a world in which this woman (or an agent like her) gets a movie and Alyssa Peterson, who paid the ultimate price for refusing to torture, doesn't.

    And I'm not comfortable living in a world where the MAJORITY of Americans, including one of my very, very favorite movie critics--honestly, right up there in my top 10 movie critics of all time--don't get this or help propagate the lies by treating it like a nonissue while offering unqualified praise for the movie.

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