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« The Rundown (2003) [Widescreen] - DVD | Main | Extracurricular Activities: "The Monster Show" »

April 9, 2013

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Bill C

@Saif: Ain't gone anywhere, though I accidentally linked another site's review under Related Articles. Fixed.

Saif Khan

Where's the original review?

Justin B-H

*should have been early-2000s for Threat Matrix-doh!

Justin B-H

Well done Jefferson for the article, and it's a nice companion to Angelo's original review.

I remember watching an episode of the post-911 TV series Threat Matrix in the early 90s, within which one of the characters knowingly tortured a terror suspect to death by feeding him citrus (to which he had an allergy), and in a subsequent courtoom episode the torturer was acquitted (and their actions implicitly vindicated) because the torture yielded results. It honestly reminded me of what an East German TV show from 1961 glorifying the Stasi would have looked like.

I also remember watching the post-911 episode of The West Wing within which a character sought to explain middle eastern politics on a fucking blackboard, implicitly patronising the audience aschildren, and leading to the stunning conclusion that "Al-qaeda=KKK" Well no, it didn't then and doesn't now.

Then there's Zero Dark Thirty. I think it was unusually brave for an American film to be this morally complex and let its audience decide whether losing your soul justifies being king (or queen) of the world-the Hays code and its demand for morally pat endings still casts a long shadow, and kudos to Bigelow for not yielding to the easy option.

tom

if all you see is glory when bigelow's lingering on the horrified face of a soldier processing the screams of women and children, or realistically depicting the brutal slaughter of indistinguishable enemies, or indeed showing maya's numb, exhausted reaction to identifying the body as bin laden, then there's nothing left to discuss i suppose.

Manny Kreisman

Disagree with the claim that the Abbotobad Scene in ZDT wasn't meant to be "great" or register as anything but a complete triumph. And it should be. It is the most successful American military operation in decades and filmed as such, its Bigelows Tour De Force and anything but numbing or deflating. And if Bigelow wanted to Show Maya as a husk of a human than she probably shouldn't cast the worlds most ethereal beauty in the part and shoot her final scene in gorgeous magic hour lighting.

tom

there is nothing "great" about bin laden's death in ZDT, the entire final act is infused with numb, deflated futility. bigelow's point is that it *wasn't* worth it, there's zero dignity to be found, this woman has become a lonely, hollowed-out husk with just this grotty fucking corpse to show for it. the books are balanced, the numbers equate, but the human cost is immeasurable. the despairing shake of the head, the "what a mess..." -- that's bigelow's thesis right there.

i do think boal confuses the issue somewhat with his crappy script though.

Jacob

And this mother of a nation thing--an aryan goddess shedding tears through necessary bloodshed--couldn't smack more of fascist propaganda.

Jacob

Yeah, she squirts a few at the end (torture demands so much of us torturers), but it just lends dignity to the sacrifice of her humanity in the name of something greater. This isn't a movie that makes you less resolved to kill. The most effective way for a modern mind to sidestep its conscience is to eulogize it this way.

tom

to paste what i wrote when this debate was at its most furious:

surely the lack of triumphalism in the treatment of bin laden's death allows the film to evade such pro-torture readings? maybe i'm alone in finding that final set piece to be the saddest of the lot, revealing this goal strived for with such fervor for so long to be just another ugly scene balancing the books against a series of other ugly scenes, sagging under the sickening weight of the situation's overall cost and providing little if any catharsis. it's all there in a soldier's throwaway line, isn't it? "what a mess".

in fact, if anything the worst scenes of the final half hour involve the film heavy-handedly forcing this point home by lingering on the face of a soldier as he can't look away from the terrified faces of young/female occupants, and of course the emphasis on maya's lack of relief; this isn't a happy ending precisely because it's the inevitable end-product of a war characterised by an atmosphere that nurtures, among many other disturbing things, pro-torture politics.

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