Publication Details

O'Donnell, M. (2013). The messianic absolutism of Zero Dark Thirty. The Conversation, (31 January)

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The Conversation


A lot has been written about Zero Dark Thirty’s torture narrative.

Alex Gibney, whose Taxi to the Dark Side traced the abuses of the Bush torture system, gives one of the best accounts. Having seen the film I agree with two things critics have been saying.

First, this is a technically superb piece of cinema. Director Katheryn Bigelow’s attention to detail and many intelligent choices makes her treatment of torture even more disappointing.

Second, the story arc clearly implies that torture tactics were central rather than incidental in gathering the information that led to the capture of Osama bin Laden. This is emphasised throughout the film not just through the opening torture scenes