With Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty finally hitting theatres in wide release last weekend, the debate surrounding the Oscar-nominated thriller has intensified. While some viewers have taken issue with the various nuts and bolts (ie. pacing, character development, dialogue) the bigger concern seem to revolve around accuracy, specifically with regards to the use of torture to obtain a key piece of information. While much of the truth remains classified, there is still a general feeling that if a movie’s veracity has been called into question, it instantly becomes invalidated. But is this really a fair assessment?
It’s true that Zero Dark Thirty has been marketed partially based on its faithfulness to actual events, so perhaps the extra scrutiny is warranted. However, I’d like to think that when most of us hear the phrase “based on a true story”, we know to take it with a grain of salt. Liberties must be taken for the purposes of storytelling, and if every single fact was 100% true, we might as well just be watching a documentary. Other recent films like Argo, The Social Network and even Moneyball have been met with similar criticism, although some of those movies embellish in order to get at a larger universal truth. What do you think? Do movies based on a true story have an obligation to stick to the facts? When is it okay to deviate from the truth? Should fictional films be held to the same standard as documentaries? Give us your thoughts here on Open Forum Friday.