erik lundegaard

Sunday February 24, 2013

A Question for Fans of 'Zero Dark Thirty'

Timothy Egan has a piece on The New York Times site critiquing Kathryn Bigelow's “Zero Dark Thirty,” and Jeff Wells, a movie blogger and fan of the film, rather than responding himself, gets someone close to the project to respond. Must be nice.

It's not a bad response. It's certainly better than the official responses from Boal and Bigelow over the past months. Among other things, he/she says this:

By the way, we showed plenty of false starts. We portray the first eight years of the hunt as being wasteful because the name [of the courier] was in the files the entire time.

I've heard this defense several times now. My question: Why would Maya have been searching for the name of the courier, Abu Ahmed, if she hadn't already gotten it from Ammar after he'd been tortured for two years?

Here are the relevant lines of dialogue from the script; the moment Abu Ahmed's name first appears. It's when Ammar is enjoying a picnic lunch with Dan and Maya outside.

AMMAR: I wanted to kill Americans. We tried to get into Tora Bora but the bombing was too high. We couldn't cross.
MAYA: Sorry, who is the “we” in that sentence?
AMMAR: Me and some guys who were hanging around at that time.
DANIEL (casually): I can eat with some other dude and hook you back up to the ceiling?
AMMAR: Hamza Rabia, Khabab al-Masri, and Abu Ahmed.

(Maya makes notes on her pad.)

MAYA: Who's Abu Ahmed? I've heard of the other guys.
AMMAR: He was a computer guy with us at the time. After Tora Bora, I went back to Pesh - as you know - and he went North, I think, to Kunar.

This is why Maya began to search for Abu Ahmed. Because Ammar mentions him after two years of torture. He mentions him after being threatened with torture again. The fact that his name is in a file is as irrelevant as the fact that the Ark of the Covenant is boarded up in a government warehouse at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Bureaucratic files are where names go to disappear forever.

So if Ammar had never been tortured, Maya never would've been searching for Abu Ahmed, who never would have led us to Abottabad and Osama bin Laden.

So why isn't the above defense of the film's at-best ambiguous dramatization on the efficacy of torture a bullshit defense?

Jessica Chastain as Maya in "Zero Dark Thirty"

“Who's Abu Ahmed? I've heard of the other guys.”

Posted at 09:18 AM on Sunday February 24, 2013 in category Movies  
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