[Marxism] David Bromwich on "Zero Dark Thirty"

Daniel Koechlin d.koechlin at wanadoo.fr
Sat Feb 2 19:21:34 MST 2013

David Bromwich wrote in the Huffington *Post : "/Zero Dark Thirty/ is 
tense and well-paced"

This may be true for an American audience, but is certainly not true for 
a European audience. On the contrary, Zero Dark Thirty appears as a 
tedious exercice in obscuring any relevant facts that may help 
understand the situation in Afghanistan/Pakistan.

As though a remake of "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" was produced without 
any scenes explaining the divergent views of those at the top of MI6 and 
limited to scenes of Smiley in his office. Uninformative.

Bromwich compares the film to "The Hurt Locker" and to "Salvador"

Well, Stone's "Salvador" is much more "tense and well-paces"  AND shows 
us scenes of the fascist villains planning the execution of the Catholic 
priest (one of the fascists is dramatically handed the bullet). And 
shows us how the community is divided between leftists and rightists. 
And shows us that the rightists are mostly poor people who are recruited 
as part of a White Terror. And shows us the hypocrisy of the US embassy 
staff and the US media who purposely chose to ignore the massacres. 
After watching Salvador, we know more about US involvement in Central 
America than before we entered the cinema.

The same applies to "the Hurt Locker". The audience understand the 
psychological trauma of IEDs. They realize that the distinction between 
combatant and non-combatant can become blurred in an insurgency-type 
warfare where booby-traps are awaiting soldiers at every corner.

In contrast, "Zero Dark Thirty" does not show anything interesting or 
worthwhile. What the audience really wants to know is WHO is Bin Laden, 
HOW his AL Quaeda network operates, WHAT HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE 
PAKISTANIS WAS, WHY the CIA did not catch him earlier, etc. None of 
these questions is examined in the film.

Instead, we have Maya, the main character, interrogate a guy using 
techniques that would reasonably constitute torture (but are more 
psychological than physical),. Then we have her discussing the info with 
"the brass" ("he is a courier so Ben Laden must be in Pakistan"). Then 
we have her using a dry-wipe marker to scribble the number of days since 
news of Ben Laden's whereabouts was confirmed on a glass partition. We 
also have her declaring "everything changed on µ/11" and "I want him 
dead". We have one scene in which a suicide bomber blows himself up 
inside a CIA run compound in Afghanistan.

And that's it. The only interesting bit is the last 30 minutes in which 
the assault on Bin Laden's compound is filmed in great detail. The 
military techniques are of interest to those who like to witness special 
op forces in action, although they are also quite devoid of any meaning. 
They rappel onto the roof, use explosive charges to blow up the doors, 
kill every male in sight using silencers (zip zip zip), and exit with 
Bin Laden's body. As mindless and inpersonnel robots they are superb and 
the pride of the US army.

But the film is grossly lacking in pace. It is unidimensional to a point 
that is beyond belief : THERE IS NO FLESH AND BLOOD ENEMY ! Not even a 
group of Jihadists discussing anything. And the main characters are 
caricatures (the operatives who practice torture and recoup data) and 
their lives are unspeakably dull. And what is worse,  the evidence they 
uncover is never analysed in any geo-strategical depth (the only 
preoccupation is the wherabouts of Bin Laden) and does not lead to any 
plot twists.

So the film is meant as a look into the practice of torture and to 
elicit responses from the American viewing public. Fine, it has achieved 
its objective. Although apart from waterboarding no physical torture is 
shown, and more importantly, the intimate effects of torture on the 
victim are not shown (the victims are only produced for those scenes and 
play no other part in the plot).

I personally have never watched such an appalling "war film" slash 
"espionnage movie". If this is to be the standard for future war movies 
in the 2010s, I think I shall abstain from spending my hard-earned cash 
on such boring tripe coming from the US of A.

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