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In this sense Bigelow's masterful vision—a vision not only realized aesthetically, with a gripping plot and an emotional connectedness, but also morally through an honestly complex view on war and bin Laden's death—answers our questions with another set questions: How do we express love, and avoid hate and harm, in a world this dark and bleak, a world where an enemy stands ready to take our lives? Put simply, in a situation such as ours, should mercy trump justice? What would that look like? Who really knows?

Talk About It

  1. Zero Dark Thirty has been accused of condoning torture. Do you agree with such criticism? Do you think the film paints torture in a positive light?
  2. How do you feel about torture? Is it morally acceptable if it leads to something bigger, something that affects many more people than the one being tortured? Or is it morally wrong altogether?
  3. How did you feel when you heard the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed? What were some of the other responses you witnessed?
  4. Do you think bin Laden's death was justified and necessary or not, or do you feel some other way about it? Why was it such a significant moment in American history? Do you think it brought true peace and closure to those directly affected by 9/11 and other terror attacks caused by bin Laden?
  5. Does Zero Dark Thirty change your view of war? What is your view of war? Do you believe war is sometimes necessary or always wrong? How do we live as ministers of reconciliation in a world where war is seemingly inevitable given the threats and attacks from enemies?
  6. Are we to always choose mercy over justice? How so?

The Family Corner

Zero Dark Thirty is rated R for strong violence including brutal disturbing images, and for language. The torture scenes early in the movie are graphic and unsettling. We see one of the CIA's detainees being waterboarded, in which water is poured over his face while he is immobilized. We see many people die in various terrorist attacks, usually involving suicide bombers. In the finale, when a squadron of Navy SEALS goes after bin Laden in his mansion, we witness several people being shot down with automatic weapons, including women. Most of the characters in the film use profanity often, including the protagonist, Maya.

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