Over the last decade, nothing has produced more positive feelings among Americans about themselves than the killing of bin Laden. That’s why it was a centerpiece of Obama’s re-election campaign and multiple chanting sessions at the Democrats’ convention.
When it comes to “the hunt for bin Laden”, few people want their nationalistic pride to be diluted by criticisms of the agencies responsible or reminders of the war crimes their country committed (or the fake child vaccine programs on which it relied). Any film that powerfully and adeptly leads Americans to view their government and its intelligence and military actors as noble heroes is one that is going to produce gratitude and glee no matter what else it does.
Those who ordered and implemented torture were never prosecuted. They were actively shielded from all forms of legal accountability by the current president. They thus went on to write books, get even richer, and live the lives of honored American statesmen. Torture was thus transformed from what it had been - a universally recognized war crime - into just another pedestrian, partisan political debate that Americans have.
That’s the critical context in which a film can simultaneously be said to glorify torture using outright fabrications and be praised as the year’s greatest film. The normalization of torture - and of all crimes committed by the US government in the name of war - is both a cause and effect of this film’s success. That normalization is what enables a film like this to be so widely admired, and it will be bolstered even further as the film gathers more accolades and box office riches.