Depending on who’s watching, the popular and controversial film “Zero Dark Thirty” is being hailed as a celebration of American exceptionalism, despised as propaganda and dismissed as yet another Hollywood movie that blurs a line between truth and fiction.
Others, like Vic Hash, a local combat veteran, won’t even watch.
Hash, who was injured by bomb blasts in Afghanistan, said he appreciates director Kathryn Bigelow‘s work in the 2010 Academy Award-winning Iraq war movie, “The Hurt Locker,” but feels a critical line was crossed in her latest Oscar-nominated film about the 10-year search after 9/11 for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
If painful memories of his service were not enough to keep him away, he would refuse to see it because it “uncovers the way we do business.”
“I’m not against freedom of speech. But my understanding is that details in the film were gleaned from people talking about things they shouldn’t have been discussing. It’s a way to make money, but it gets a lot of people killed,” said Hash, a retired Army sergeant first class.
The film, which opened in San Antonio on Jan. 11, has stirred debate that in some ways has helped promote it. Members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee want to know if the Central Intelligence Agency improperly advised filmmakers, and have blasted the movie for depicting brutal interrogation as crucial in the search for bin Laden.
In published commentaries, CIA veteran Jose A. Rodriguez Jr. and former CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, a retired Air Force general, said they do not believe classified secrets were revealed in the film, which has been panned by liberals and conservatives.
Hash said he’s worried the film unduly credits President Barack Obama while exposing intelligence tactics to terrorists.
“Even if 1 percent of the film is correct, I don’t agree with it being out there,” he said.
Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University, has similar concerns. The 21/2-hour film sought to find a “delicate balance” between informing moviegoers and withholding sensitive information, but went too far in exposing methods of the CIA and the military, who carefully follow the legal advice of “quiet professionals,” he said.
Addicott, a former Army Special Forces senior legal adviser, said he’s discussing the movie with law students about its interrogation scenes and “how mythology has overtaken the facts.”
A political firestorm erupted over the CIA’s use of waterboarding, which rarely was used but is depicted extensively in the film, Addicott said.
“There is no moral equivalence between us and al-Qaida,” he said. “We don’t have to apologize for what they did.”
The film is filled with sudden explosions and bursts of gunfire. Dr. Harry Croft, a psychiatrist who has counseled combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder since the 1970s, said many veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan might take pride in seeing the heart-pounding re-enactment of the 2011 raid by Navy SEAL Team 6 on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan near the end of the movie, “because we then took out the head enemy.”
The film also may stir “more negatives than positives,” especially for vets with PTSD, he said.
“It kind of depends on the core symptoms and who you visit the movie with. It might trigger too many bad memories — terrifying aspects of war, or people who didn’t make it back,” Croft said.
Lisa Pinto, whose brother served two tours in Iraq, doesn’t recommend the film for combat vets, and hasn’t seen any enthusiasm for it among the many she knows.
“I don’t know if it’s too early, if they’re not interested or if they don’t want to relive it,” said Pinto, a former television news reporter.
In a Washington Post commentary, CIA veteran Rodriguez, who was involved in the real search for bin Laden, said the film vastly overstated waterboarding and other tactics for questioning detainees.
The “misleading interrogation scenes” showing nudity and physical abuse eclipsed the film’s portrayal of other intelligence, such as electronic surveillance, that led to bin Laden, he wrote.
A character based on CIA officer Jennifer Matthews, who died in a suicide bombing, was “wrongly” depicted as “overly ambitious and less than serious,” he added.
Rodriguez and Hayden, who wrote a commentary for CNN, said the film took artistic liberties in portraying its protagonist, a CIA officer named Maya, as a lone figure, often swimming against the currents of the agency’s administration to take action to get bin Laden.
Rodriguez said “many” people deserved credit, including a “handful of officers, mainly women” who embodied the “relentless focus” that the Maya character represents.
While Hayden neither endorsed nor condemned the film, Rodriguez called it “well worth seeing.”
Pinto’s review: It’s “an awesome movie.”
“I went into it knowing I was going to see a movie, not reality” she said. “You can’t tell the story 100 percent factually, if you weren’t there.”
Source: Express News