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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Zero Dark Thirty

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


U.S. Navy SEALs are portrayed in a scene from the movie "Zero Dark Thirty."
"Zero Dark Thirty" (Columbia) offers moviegoers a challenging account, based on real events, of the decade-long hunt for terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

This gritty glimpse into the underworld of acknowledged detention centers and concealed prisons, known as "black sites," raises ethical quandaries and presents content that will prove unsettling even for many adults.

The action centers on a relentlessly determined CIA officer named Maya (Jessica Chastain). Urged on by her superiors, one of whom demands that she "bring me people to kill," Maya painstakingly gathers intelligence hints concerning bin Laden's whereabouts and those of his confederates.

Eventually she weaves these slender strands of evidence together sufficiently to track America's public enemy number one to his fortified compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. There, as enacted in the film's climax, Navy SEALs killed him in May 2011.

Some of Maya's leads are obtained by her colleague Dan (Jason Clarke), who employs both physical and psychological torture to break down the prisoners he interrogates. His techniques include water-boarding, a process that simulates the effects of drowning, close confinement and various forms of humiliation.

While director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have crafted a compelling drama, their movie's moral stance is ambiguous. The harsh reality of so-called "enhanced interrogation," as practiced by Dan, is graphically portrayed. Yet the results of subjecting prisoners to it are shown to be effective.

Viewers will need a strong grounding in their faith to discern the proper balance between the imperative of upholding human dignity and the equally grave obligation to save innocent human lives. They will also need to guard against the temptation to revel in the death of an evildoer.

As God asks the prophet Ezekiel, "Do I find pleasure in the death of the wicked—oracle of the Lord God? Do I not rejoice when they turn from their evil way and live?" (Ez. 18:23)

In keeping with the tough-guy tone of the spying and soldiering worlds in which "Zero Dark Thirty" is set, moreover, the dialogue involves a steady assault with F-bombs and other vulgarities.

The film contains considerable violence, including scenes of torture and degradation, brief rear nudity, at least one use of profanity as well as frequent rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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