"Zero Dark Thirty" writer says "it's misreading the film" to say torture led to bin Laden capture

Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal weigh in on the debate ignited by their film

By Prachi Gupta
Published December 11, 2012 10:30PM (EST)

The critically acclaimed Osama bin Laden manhunt drama, "Zero Dark Thirty," hasn't even been released yet, but it has already opened up a sprawling, multi-tiered debate about the U.S. government's use of torture. On one hand, commentators like Joe Scarborough are using the film to argue that torture led to the capture of Osama bin Laden. On the other, columnists are attacking the film's director and screenwriter, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, for taking a pro-torture stance by even including a waterboarding scene that, as the New Yorker notes, "strayed from real life."

But in an interview with TheWrap, Bigelow and Boal stated that such political arguments are "preposterous":

"This movie has been and will continue to be put in political boxes," said Boal. "Before we even wrote it, some people said it was an Obama campaign commercial, which was preposterous. And now it's pro-torture, which is preposterous.

"We're trying to present a long, 10-year intelligence hunt, of which the harsh interrogation program is the most controversial aspect. And it's just misreading the film to say that it shows torture leading to the information about bin Laden. If you actually watch the movie, the detainee doesn't say anything when he's waterboarded. He gives them some information that's new to them over the civilized setting of a lunch -- and they go back to the research room and all that information is already there."

Added Bigelow, "Do I wish [torture] was not part of that history? Yes. But it was."

Undoubtedly, debate around the film will continue -- but, as Salon's Andrew O'Hehir pointed out weeks ago, the film's "ambiguous" stance and the subsequent questions it raises are also what makes it so "alluring."


Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

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Cia Kathryn Bigelow Mark Boal Osama Bin Laden Zero Dark Thirty