As a spy thriller Zero Dark Thirty is an amazing movie. I highly recommend it. While long, it is riveting and well executed. Kathryn Bigelow does a great job as a director.
The question is how accurate is it? While it is a movie, and movies take liberties with the facts, Zero Dark Thirty appears to be more accurate than Argo was (that is not to criticize Argo, which was also a very well done movie). Update: Obama's Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta admits waterboarding led to information that led to finding Osama bin Laden.
There are enhanced interrogation techniques featured in the first half of the movie (water boarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation, etc.). While not Abu Ghraib, it is definitely unpleasant to watch. The question is, did such techniques lead to the finding and ultimately the killing of Osama Bin Laden? While only those involved know absolutely for sure, the evidence strongly suggests it did play a role. Political posturing aside, we know such techniques were used and we know that intelligence was obtained from it. You can be against torture and even enhanced interrogation, while acknowledging such techniques might in fact work on occasion. Kathryn Bigelow as a director and producer was trying to make a good film that was reasonably accurate in a broad sense (and given the nature of the subject matter, the classified nature of a lot of this, and the needs of dramatization, it is not a documentary). I do not think she had a political axe to grind.
This film is not critical or promoting of Barack Obama (he is barely mentioned) and I do not recall GWB being mentioned at all. The film shows that people who actually make successes such as this happen are those nameless (and often un-thanked) individuals devoting their lives behind the scenes.
I suspect Kathryn Bigelow got snubbed for a Best Director nomination partially because of the interrogation scenes (although Ben Affleck got dissed too on Argo). It is hard to understand why Hollyweird does what it does (who knows, they may prove that weirdness by giving the Best Film award to the boring and tedious Beasts of the Southern Wild). Zero Dark Thirty is one of the best films of the year. If I were voting it would be my pick for best picture. I would have also considered giving Bigelow best director (it is amazing she was not nominated).
I doubt this film will beat Lincoln for best movie. Lincoln by its nature and subject matter (and the passage of time) is less controversial and has broader appeal. Lincoln is also a very good movie (and it will be sad if Daniel Day Lewis does not win best actor). Still, Zero Dark Thirty is a great movie.
Here is the official site.
It got overall very good reviews (a 93% at Rotten Tomatoes)
Bigelow has to apologize for not being critical enough of enhanced interrogation/torture...
Totten: Love it, hate it, but go see it.
Flopping Aces: Three former CIA officials review Zero Dark Thirty
Slate: Three CIA officials on enhanced interrogation...