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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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Ansgar: The “apostle of the north” (Scandinavia) had enough frustrations to become a saint—and he did. He became a Benedictine at Corbie, France, where he had been educated. Three years later, when the king of Denmark became a convert, Ansgar went to that country for three years of missionary work, without noticeable success. Sweden asked for Christian missionaries, and he went there, suffering capture by pirates and other hardships on the way. Fewer than two years later, he was recalled, to become abbot of New Corbie (Corvey) and bishop of Hamburg. The pope made him legate for the Scandinavian missions. Funds for the northern apostolate stopped with Emperor Louis’s death. After 13 years’ work in Hamburg, Ansgar saw it burned to the ground by invading Northmen; Sweden and Denmark returned to paganism. 
<p>He directed new apostolic activities in the North, traveling to Denmark and being instrumental in the conversion of another king. By the strange device of casting lots, the king of Sweden allowed the Christian missionaries to return. </p><p>Ansgar’s biographers remark that he was an extraordinary preacher, a humble and ascetical priest. He was devoted to the poor and the sick, imitating the Lord in washing their feet and waiting on them at table. He died peacefully at Bremen, Germany, without achieving his wish to be a martyr. </p><p>Sweden became pagan again after his death, and remained so until the coming of missionaries two centuries later.</p> American Catholic Blog Every vocation is a vocation to sacrifice and to joy. It is a call to the knowledge of God, to the recognition of God as our Father, to joy in the understanding of His mercy.

 
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