When Zero Dark Thirty began capturing the attention of critics across the nation, it pretty much bumped Argo out of it’s comfortable front runner throne it’s been sitting on for well over a month. Who knew that Kathryn Bigelow‘s next picture would come stampeding in, obliterating everything in its path. After the dust settled on the first burst of hype surrounding the picture, some critics began looking at the film under a microscope, noticing a scene that may ultimately have hurt Bigelow’s chances for a second grab at Oscar gold.
The big question on everybody’s lips is whether or not Zero Dark Thirty is pro-torture. We know that the movie takes place within ten years of the supposed biggest manhunt in history, which includes a period where soldiers where using enhanced interrogation techniques on suspects. But the film shows this in the much talked about water boarding torture scene, a fictional portrayal of the interrogation of Al Quaeda’s Number 3 leader. Some critics and political figures are now under the impression that the film promotes torture more than anything else that what the story is actually saying. Are they right or wrong? Well, let’s look at both sides of the argument.
The murmurs of the movie’s pro-torture stance first rose up a couple of weeks back, but not many were arguing that the scene in question was a deal breaker for those who were on the fence with this movie. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni is under the impression that the movie promotes torture, and since this a movie chest-deep in politics, some prominent political figures would loudly come out saying they’re for or against Zero Dark Thirty. One of the loudest protesters for this movie is Senator John McCain, claiming that the torture scene made him sick to his stomach. To make matters worse, Huffington Post writer Jesse Kornbluth is urging readers to boycott the movie even before it comes out in theaters. He goes on a long-winded rant about how even after screenwriter Mark Boal came out and said the film does anything but promote torture, that we as an audience are more or less contributing to the screenwriter and director’s viewpoint on torture if we see this movie on opening weekend.
Some are suggesting that this is the end of Zero Dark Thirty’s chances of winning any sort of Oscar, since the politics of the torture scene will more or less drive voters away from placing a check mark on this picture. Will Academy voters look at Zero Dark Thirty and have this buzzing around in their heads? The debate over the film’s stance on torture has continued to heat up within this past week, which means that perhaps there’s some light to the end of the tunnel for Argo. You know, that one Ben Affleck movie that everybody was in love with a month back. There is a chance that its Best Picture chances may be rising up again if this smear campaign against Zero Dark Thirty continues on.
Sure, audiences will be the ones to judge when it comes to whether or not they believe Bigelow and company is promoting torture, but what about Academy voters? How will they be swayed? Probably the best ways marketing on this film can defeat this obstacle is by either more critics coming out, saying that the film isn’t trying to make that kind of statement, along with Bigelow and Boal doing the same thing. At this point though, Zero Dark Thirty isn’t as strong in the Oscar race as it used to be.