Nightly News   |  December 20, 2012

Critics question ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

Both Sen. John McCain and Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein have complained to SONY Pictures that the film is ‘factually inaccurate.’ NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>>> there is growing controversy tonight over a big new movie that opened in some parts of the country last night about the decade-long effort to get osama bin laden . kathryn bigelow 's film " zero dark thirty " is nominated and is an oscar hopeful. but it has some folks in washington upset. they're calling the film grossly inadequate -- inaccurate, rather, and misleading. but the filmmakers are standing by their story. we get our report tonight from our chief foreign affairs correspondent, andrea mitchell .

>> when was the last time you saw bin laden ?

>> reporter: it's a gut-wrenching rendition of the bush era cia torture techniques, lasting for the first half hour of " zero dark thirty ," the new film about the hunt for osama bin laden . depicting brutal interrogation practices since banned by president obama .

>> any questions?

>> reporter: fact or fiction, the film opens with the words, based on first-hand accounts of actually events that the film makers told matt lauer on "today."

>> what you see is a fairly accurate rendition of what happened.

>> reporter: but that's being questioned. not by critics who have given the film face to face rave reviews. but by u.s. senators , including one who was himself tortured for years in hanoi.

>> they make it appear as if this brutal interrogation techniques obtain useful information. the fact is, they didn't. the fact is, they even got false information from waterboarding and other forms of torture.

>> reporter: mccain and senate intelligence chair dianne feinstein complained to sony pictures that the film is factually inaccurate. master mind khalid sheikh mohamed was waterboarded. but the senator and other experts said that did not lead the cia to bin laden 's hideout.

>> they said they looked at 6 million pages of documents. that's a lot of information. and they concluded that torture really didn't contribute to establishing where osama bin laden was.

>> reporter: in fact, the reality was a lot more complex, but less dramatic than the film version .

>> it was information through interrogations, through interviews, through physical surveillance, through electronic surveillance , through sources.

>> reporter: john mccain worries the torture scenes could be even more explosive in the arab world . the pictures of iraqi prisoners being abused at abu ghraib eight years ago. the filmmakers say they depicted a variety of controversial practices used in the name of finding bin laden . a ten-year intelligence operation brought to the screen in a two-and-a-half hour film. andrea mitchell , nbc news, washington.