Some people think the film glorifies torture or credits it for the killing of Osama bin Laden (for some people, the film credits it too much, for others crediting it at all would be too much).
Some people think the film's depiction of torture doesn't credit it (or credit it too much), or that its presentation of torture is dispassionate or journalistic.
After finally watching the film the other day, I'm with the latter crowd. Here's why:
- As best we can tell, the US has used torture in the "war on terror." For a film on this subject to leave that out would just be silly and unrealistic. I don't agree that the film is "journalistic," as the filmmakers call it (more on that below), but it does try to be believable. They couldn't accomplish that by having the US interrogators give the detainees ponies. Some very bad things happened, and the film had to portray them happening.
- Since the film has to depict torture, it should do so realistically. I am not an expert on torture, but it seemed realistic to me (and the point of film as entertainment is to seem realistic to the viewer -- experts on torture are a very small percentage of the audience, and that's a good thing). It doesn't treat waterboarding, locking people in small boxes, etc. romantically at all. Neither does it go the other way. The treatment is very flat and naturalistic. "This is happening, no comment on whether it's good or not." The main torturer informs the detainee "I am not a good guy," and proceeds to prove it. So far as I can tell, the film leaves the question of whether or not he should have done so to the viewer.
- If Kathryn Bigelow had wanted to glorify torture or give it undue credit for producing information, she wouldn't have done it this way. The key early break in the case comes not from torture per se, but from convincing a previously tortured detainee that he had already given up important information after sleep deprivation, so why not eat a good meal, smoke some cigarettes, and have a leisurely chat with his captors?