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December 16, 2012
Zero Dark Thirty confounding liberal film critics
What if Hollywood made a high profile movie that carried an implicit message supporting George W. Bush's War on Terror policies and made Barack Obama look naïve? What if the movie were made by an acclaimed director, and was really, really good?
Why, you'd have the amusing opportunity to read up on the critical reaction To Kathryn Bigelow's new blockbuster film, Zero Dark Thirty.
I confess that when I learned that Hollywood was to enjoy very broad cooperation from the intelligence community for the production, I assumed that the Obama Administration would get a free pass, a semi-hagiographic treatment of the bold president ordering the raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden.
Kyle Smith, writing in the New York Post, explains how the closely detailed film treats the subject, and why President Obama is not happy with the outcome:
After seeing it, I can report that it is a clear vindication for the Bush administration's view of the War on Terror. Moreover, "ZD30" subtly presents President Obama and by extension the entire Democratic establishment and its supporters in the media as hindering the effort to find bin Laden by politicizing harsh interrogation techniques and striking a pose against them that was naive at best.
Since the film is based on unpublished interviews with primary sources, it is unusually difficult to fact-check. But as information about the reality behind the story emerges, so far "ZD30" is standing up factually and is consistent with relevant statements by former CIA Director Leon Panetta and lawmakers with access to classified information about the raid.
Smith lays out how the film carefully depicts the actual context within which useful, actionable information is developed. After a very informative discussion of the torture question, he describes how Obama appears:
...subtleties escape Obama in the only scene in which he appears. It's a clip from an actual "60 Minutes" interview in which he says primly that America doesn't torture, won't torture under his watch and needs to restore its moral standing in the world.
He then discusses the difficulties for progs who consider themselves cineastes:
It's amusing to observe liberal film critics getting discombobulated as they try to reconcile the film's evident strengths, and its message, with their own discomfort with an America-first narrative and their belief that such stories are for cretins.
New York magazine's lively critic David Edelstein, for instance, calls the movie "The most neutral-seeming 'America, F--k Yeah!' picture ever made. In its narrative arc, it is barely distinct from a boneheaded right-wing revenge picture." Also he calls it a "borderline fascistic" and "unholy" film that "borders on the politically and morally reprehensible" - even as he endorses what it depicts and calls it the best picture of the year. He calls the opening interrogation scene "unpleasant but not unwelcome" (so is he calling himself a fascist?) and goes on to aver that, "To paraphrase Dick Cheney, you sometimes have to go to the dark side."
I might actually go out to a movie (it's been a very long time) just to see this one.
Hat tip: Ed Lasky
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