Mark Bowden writing for The Atlantic (warning, Zero Dark Thirty spoilers ahead):
The charge that the film is pro-torture is easy to debunk. I have already noted the dramatic failure depicted in the opening scenes with Ammar. The futility of the approach is part of the more general organizational failure depicted in the movie’s first half, culminating in a dramatization of the tragic 2009 bombing of Camp Chapman, in Khost, Afghanistan, where an al-Qaeda infiltrator wiped out an entire CIA field office. The agency is shown to be not only failing to find bin Laden and dismantle al-Qaeda, but on the losing end of the fight.
There’s been a huge flap in recent weeks over Zero Dark Thirty and its ‘pro-torture stance’. After viewing (and being blown away by) the movie last week, I just don’t buy it. Adding onto what Bowden writes above, the early torture heavy scenes made me feel queasy and very uncomfortable, and I think that’s exactly what director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal intended. It happened, and to skip over it or portray it anything else than what it was would be a whitewash.