Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow- 2012) – The Dilemma of Morality


Then exhausted and unexpectedly silent Maya (Jessica Chastain), without any sign of glory in her face, looks around in an empty military airplane only to realize that she will be as alone as she always was. The fateful operation finished and her obsessional desire for revenge fulfilled; Bin Laden killed. Somebody asks her, as he echoes her inner voice, where she wants to go now. And not knowing what life might mean from now on, she melts down on a chair.

In a furious review in “The guardian”, Zizek insists that Bigelow’s cool depiction is nothing less than endorsement and blames her for justifying the barbarity of torture by its blessing achievement i.e. demolition of al-Quaeda. However he ignores Biglow’s journalistic tone and the way she creates the final turn to leave us with the everlasting question of morality in the confronting context of modern life; what is the cornerstone of moral act? What’s right and what’s not? And the more important question of “should we judge the conduct itself (the deontological point of view) or the consequence of it (so-called consequentialism)”. The second would approve violent interrogation as it ended up to kill Bin Laden which is right (or is it?) whereas the former would argue that the inhuman act of torture is wrong no matter what, and that it’s like an opening towards an endless slippery slope. So although – as Thomas Caldwell mentioned in his clever analytical note on film – by the end of the day, the eventual vital piece of information was the result of brutal cross-examinations but In fact, in the film, overestimation of the attained information through the “classic” way of interrogation, diverts CIA to an astray for more than ten years. Bigelow, I believe, as a loyal reporter had less to do with the real chain of events and so she has reflected her feelings through her representation and the way she’s depicted the story. The final chapter of the film, in this way, has a pivotal role in decrypting the film.


2 responses to “Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow- 2012) – The Dilemma of Morality

  • Arya

    Just in brief: Don’t mess with women and if you do, you can be sure about its dire consequences (just kidding).
    This is another episode from a series of full fledged war which has gone for centuries.The war between modern world, “developed” nations or true believers on one side and third worlders, under developed nations or infidels on the other side. To be honest , it is very difficult to judge and analyse each side of this everlasting conflict.
    One obvious result of pushing nations toward new world order, making global village, accepting sacred religions or whatever it has been called: Some omitted cultures , oppressed people and beliefs (right or wrong).
    The other result: a “better” life for under developed nations or a higher chance to have some promised “redemption”.
    Like all other wars and conflicts, a messed up situation in which morality gets sacrificed, can not be avoided.
    Finally,for me the genius “killer” red hair in this movie is not more than an out of mind person who can kill in cold blood and would be amazingly satisfied by watching her assumed enemy “smoked”.
    There has been lots of them and they have been used through centuries to make the world a “better” place to live.

    • afshin forghani

      Dear Arya,

      It’s almost impossible to talk about various aspects of your scattered but interesting note here. So I only point out couple of notions;

      First; as we go further the” Game” gets wiser and more complicated. What was considered as the” battle of nations” in the past, now has found its way to our daily life in many ways including the confrontation of modernity and tradition – which seems it does not necessarily end up to a winner-loser situation and can cover a variety of combinations-. And the challenge certainly is not limited to under developed countries. On the other hand, the recent events such as wikileaks and “The International Convention Against Torture”, to name a few, changed the rules of the game enormously, even though the inevitable game is the same. And so in brief, I don’t think it would have just two distinctive outcomes as you mentioned.

      Second; Distinguishable from a national heroine, Maya, so called killer machine, clearly swapped the official orders with her personal ambitions as seriously as she can’t survive without her victim; the catcher and the catch share one destiny. She is not desirable or even lovely, I agree, but thanks to her the question of the rules of the game is now again on the table and this is what I like.

      I hope we get the chance to discuss this matter in more details some other time and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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