Zero Dark Thirty, despite garnering five Academy Award nominations and proving a success domestically at the box office, has drawn continuous fire for its depiction of torture. Namely, critics ranging from Sens. John McCain and Dianne Feinstein to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and terrorism expert Steve Coll have alleged that the movie inaccurately presents torture as a means to an end — the end being the successful killing of Osama Bin Laden in May 2011 — when it’s debatable whether enhanced interrogation techniques produced useful information.
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, who has been outspoken in the belief that torture is immoral, doesn’t appear to buy this argument.
Writing in a lengthy Facebook post on Thursday describing his reaction to the film, Moore argued that Zero Dark Thirty “is a disturbing, fantastically-made movie. It will make you hate torture. And it will make you happy you voted for a man who stopped all that barbarity – and who asked that the [CIA] people over at Langley, like him, use their brains.”
Moore wrote that the scene in the film where President Obama‘s televised remarks saying that the United States wouldn’t condone torture was a pivotal moment where the CIA shifted from using torture techniques to find information to more “detective work.” He elaborates, “In the final third of ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ the agents switch from torture to detective work – and guess what happens? We find bin Laden! Eight years of torture – no bin Laden. Two years of detective work – boom! Bin Laden!”
The filmmaker notes that — even though a key piece of intelligence was eventually obtained through a detainee that was tortured — that information was also obtained by “a random tip” but was overlooked by the CIA for years before being discovered. Another instance in the film portrayed intelligence being gleaned through an instance where a CIA operative purchased a Lamborghini for an informant.
And, of the torture scenes, Moore wrote, “After I saw ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ a friend asked me, ‘During the torture scenes, who did you feel empathy for the most – the American torturer or the Arab suspect?’ That was easy to answer. ‘Oh, God, the poor guy being waterboarded. The torturer was a sadist.'”
Kathryn Bigelow has defended Zero Dark Thirty on multiple occasions by saying that depiction of torture doesn’t imply an endorsement. The director wrote a Los Angeles Times op-ed reiterating this sentiment and elaborating that, “[if depiction is an endorsement, then] no artist would be able to paint inhumane practices, no author could write about them, and no filmmaker could delve into the thorny subjects of our time.”