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Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
A Perfect Depiction of the UBL Saga
I'm not claiming that this movie is 100% factual or even close to it but I think the filmmaker did a brilliant job of chronicling the UBL saga. IMO the theme of the movie in a nutshell is this: We got this guy (maybe?) but at what cost and were we justified? These are not easy questions to answer and they are left open ended for the most part.
The three main criticisms I've come across in the reviews is that 1) The movie is propaganda 2) It glorifies torture and 3) It is factually inaccurate. The third is probably a legitimate criticism but the movie really makes no pretenses about being a documentary and there is a prominent disclaimer at the beginning that it is based primarily on eye-witness accounts (and it is common knowledge that those can be unreliable). Regarding the death of UBL - well the movie even leaves that open ended which is pretty consistent with the actual reported events. We only get brief blurred glimpses of the side of his face and the only definitive identification comes from the 'expert' protagonist who is clearly somewhat derailed and obsessed with the manhunt (and who also stated UBL was at that location with 100% certainty).
That leads in to the first criticism. I fail to understand how this movie can be perceived as propaganda. How does portraying a 10 year ordeal culminating in an unglamorous methodical execution style raid (in which a helicopter crashes and SEALS kill possibly innocent bystanders with machine like precision) where the target's identity is not a even a certainty even remotely constitute a biased pro American agenda? Not to mention that the whole raid is brought about by a hunch and a fluke stroke of luck and not any actual key pieces of information obtained through interrogation (other than a name). If anything luck was the deciding factor in taking down UBL - not American awesomeness.
Now the torture - How does showing torture equate to glorifying torture? Does Braveheart glorify torture too? Again - this had the opposite effect on me. The viewer is forced to confront the unpleasant reality that we tortured many detainees (probably pointlessly) in our desperation to capture UBL and bring him to justice. What was the primary motivation? Revenge? Safety? Do the ends justify the means? Essentially that's the exact question the filmmaker is posing to the viewer by exposing the torture to public scrutiny.
Perhaps this movie just rubs people the wrong way because they find it too sympathetic to government officials. It's easy to criticize to the Government and trust me I am far from an optimist when it comes to American politicians so I do it often. Obviously our leaders were faced with some difficult decisions after 9/11. Did we handle things the best way? Certainly not, but for better or worse this thing played out the way it did and we have to deal with it and move forward.