You may have walked away from 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty thinking, “well, torture works.” So why does Daniel J. Jones, played by Adam Driver, roll his eyes so aggressively at the film in the new docudrama The Report? Well, it turns out that perhaps the way Zero Dark Thirty portrayed torture, or "enhanced interrogation techniques," wasn’t quite spot on.
“The idea that torture works has been Hollywood-ized, from 24 to Zero Dark Thirty, because it's really helpful if you have only an hour to tell a story to put a knife in someone and then they give up information,” the real-life Jones told VICE in an interview earlier this month. “But as Adam says in the film, you get false information. We've known for thousands of years that torture actually does not work.”
The arc of Zero Dark Thirty seems to imply that interrogation methods like waterboarding detainees played a crucial role in helping the United States find and kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. But according to the 2014 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report, which was led by Jones, “the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation.”
The Senate report concluded that CIA records showed that detainees who were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques actually gave made-up information, and that “other detainees provided significant accurate intelligence prior to, or without having been subjected to these techniques.”
That’s why the docudrama version of Jones gets so upset as the movie plays in the background of The Report. And Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chaired the committee at the time the report was developed, was upset when it came out, too. In a 2012 letter to Sony Pictures, she, along with former Sens. John McCain and Carl Levin, said the film was “perpetuating the myth that torture is effective” and that they feared Americans would get the impression that torture led to the operation against bin Laden when “it did not.”
On the other hand, others, including the filmmakers themselves, argue that Zero Dark Thirty helped expose many Americans to the very real fact that the United States was authorizing and using these violent methods. In an interview with The New Yorker right before the film was released, screenwriter Mark Boal said, “It’s a movie, not a documentary. We’re trying to make the point that waterboarding and other harsh tactics were part of the C.I.A. program.”