Finally seen it. And it’s pretty fucking funny. And accurate. From travelling coach in China, to the all-out batshit craziness involved when you have anything to do with North Korea in a professional capacity, to the wierd homorepressed ass-obsession that prevails throughout semi-military government agencies the world over, it’s all spot on.
In fact, I think I’d probably say that the least plausible thing about the film is the fact that of the two Columbia journalism grads featured, one isn’t a complete douchebag.
Actually, the best possible summary of the film can be found in the critiques by middle-brow writers, though not for the reasons they probably think. James Taranto in the WSJ provided an excellent run-down here, starting with Peter Klein’s pearl-clutching piece:
One example is a piece by Peter Klein for the Columbia Journalism Review. Klein calls ‘The Interview’ ‘a dangerous movie,’ not just to Sony employees whose privacy was invaded by the hackers but to “another more serious group of victims,” namely journalists:
‘The film, which was released over the Christmas holiday, depicts two goofy journalists, played by Seth Rogen and James Franco, who score an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and who are recruited by the CIA to kill him. Rogen’s character, the producer of a television interview program, was supposedly educated at my alma mater, Columbia School of Journalism, but seemed to have no qualms about crossing what I recall was one of the most indelibly-inked lines of journalism ethics: don’t do the bidding of the CIA.
Why make a big deal of a movie that’s clearly fiction? Because it plays right into the farcical notions of the world’s tyrannical leaders—that journalists are secretly working for the CIA, an assumption which carries tragic consequences.’
Those ‘consequences’, according to Klein, include the murders of James Foley by the Islamic State and Daniel Pearl by al Qaeda and Iran’s arresting reporters and charging them with espionage. ‘The history of kidnapped journalists . . . is filled with tragic tales of reporters being mistaken for spies,’ Klein asserts. ‘It doesn’t help when pop culture reinforces the false image of reporters-turned-special agents.’
On the other hand, Klein apparently has no objection to the portrayal of Columbia grads as humongous blowhards, so there’s that.
And then there’s this awesome piece of snobbery from Todd VanDerWerff:
The ultimate failure of The Interview isn’t in that it makes North Korea a boring problem for someone else to worry about. The ultimate failure is that it doesn’t dare to suggest to its audience that a movie should ever challenge them on any level whatsoever.
To which Taranto (and everyone else who’s ever seen a Seth Rogen film) replies:
It seems to us that if you go to a Seth Rogen film expecting a suggestion that a movie should challenge you on any level whatsoever, the failure is yours and not Rogen’s.
Oh, and Bruce Bennett, the dude who was in the press everywhere last week calling it pornographic? Needs to get out more. There’s roughly three seconds of tits in there. Oh, and Seth Rogen takes his shirt off. I’m not sure which of the two episodes induced a heavy-breathing fit in Bennett, but rest assured, a normal adult human being will be unlikely to adorn the cinema’s upholstery with samples of their DNA in response to either scene.
In the end, what interested me most about the film was what it has to say about US ideas of morality. SPOILERS AHEAD:
The basic plot involves the James Franco character making friends with Kim Jong Un, refusing to kill him, finally realising that he is a terrifying dictator after all, and then calling him out on it on live tv.
I guess we’re supposed to sympathise with Franco’s character and accept Kim as the villain, and thus deserving of being shafted. I have to say, though, from an Asian or European perspective this is really hard to get onside with. Where I come from, sacrificing a friend for a principle is about the gravest sin possible, and – ergo – Kim’s in the right here…
As you will no doubt have read, the Chinese authorities have been rather smug about the publication of the CIA torture report, with a spokeman piously telling the press that ‘China has consistently opposed torture. We believe that the US side should reflect on this, correct its ways and earnestly respect and follow the rules of related international conventions.’
In fact, for me the most interesting part of the Chinese response was the fact that the domestic media don’t seem to be reporting the… er… fundamental issues here. There have been a selection of articles describing the CIA’s methods in detail, but always omitting the arse-related items (if you haven’t yet read the descriptions of rectal feeding: enjoy).
I suspect that this is because a) the Chinese authorities responsible for encouraging prisoners to comply with official demands are not particularly keen for their friends and relations to start thinking that this is the sort of thing that they do for fun, and b) the press tends to filter out anything sexually explicit as a matter of course, and – whatever the $80m consultant psychologists might say – ramming a man’s dinner up him is not the action of an individual unencumbered by paraphiliae, M. des Esseintes.
Not that it appears to have done a lot of good. Chinese message boards are packed with jokes about the CIA’s habit of 爆菊-ing their prisoners, a rather poetic term that translates literally as ‘exploding chrysanthemum’, but which takes on the figurative meaning of either a beatdown or a butt-fucking (I won’t draw you a picture). It’s pronounced ‘baoju‘.
I took these responses from Tiexue.net, a forum orientated towards military and foreign affairs. I picked Tiexue because it has a relatively high proportion of hyper-nationalists, but also quite a few intelligent commentators. I was rather curious, because while most of them are no great friends of the US, and would relish seeing it embarrassed, a large proportion of them are not particularly fussed about the idea of enhanced interrogation either.
Where the fuck have all the human rights warriors gone? Hurry up and try to whitewash your American overlords……..
So what? In police stations in China they kill people all the time, you didn’t realise?
[Replying to the above comment] Give one example. Proof of when, why and how it happened. Probably better include a diagram too. Then after that you can explain how come the perpetrator evaded responsibility for it. It’s easy to mouth off about all the ills of society online, and start rumours. If you speak like this then basically you’re not going to get a lot of people to believe you.
– 司马藏星 [T.N. Not saying this guy is necessarily a fifty cent party, but Xi Jinping recently launched a campaign against online ‘rumours’.]
[Replying to the above comment] Lolwhut? In China internet rumours just start themselves with no one being responsible, didn’t you know that?
[Replying to the above comment] Deaths under interrogation? CCAV has reported on a few. Someone was sentenced to death in Inner Mongolia, in Fujian Nian Bin was tortured to confess to poisoning. This kind of thing happens a lot, the official media report on it. You can’t acknowledge that?
This is BS! You call this torture? The Americans are just punishing the bad guys to preserve world peace!
Don’t you unnderstand how many ordinary people’s lives these interrogations saved?
This is precisely what the glorious role of world’s policeman is all about!
[Replying to the above comment] Hehehe ^^^^
If a US cop thinks you look like a bad guy, you get shot on sight. The CIA just butt-rape you.
[Replying to the above comment] Someone you know got shot by the cops for looking like a bad guy? Wow, tell us who and everyone will sympathise with you. Oh… You mean the American cops? Yeah, actually they shot a kid who was playing with a toy gun. Fuckin A.
America yo. Well, it’d be weird if an evil empire didn’t do this sort of thing, amirite.
When the Communist Army was set up they had strict discipline and rules: don’t torture captives. Every day the Yanks go on at our Party about not observing human rights. Now we’re seeing the ugly side of America.
Democracy, freedom, the rule of law! We’re gonna beat it into you!
Too many brainwashed fifty cent parties round here. The US has the balls to publish its scandals. Does the Heavenly Kingdom?
[Replying to the above comment] Hey, you’re right. America has the balls to publish its own never-ending scandals while lecturing everyone else on human rights. They’re like whores doing business behind a grand gateway [i.e. making something disreputable seem classy]. That *is* different from the way the Heavenly Kingdom does things. China would never be so shameless… Since you guys are a bunch of stupid inadequates, all you see is the gateway that they put up. You think that the gateway is so wonderful that you can’t even see the whores beneath it. And one of them is your mother.
[Replying to the above comment] You think that people publish their scandals just so that you can laugh at them? They do it so that they can identify problems, and prevent a repeat of the crimes. Contrast this with the Heavenly Kingdom, where people are tortured to get confessions all the time. No one’s even tried to count the numbers or publish a report. In Inner Mongolia, Qoysiletu was beaten until he confessed to rape!
[Replying to the above comment] yw5905536, if one day America ceased to exist, would you cry for three days and nights? Our national media has reported on police brutality against suspects more than once, after which the officers involved were investigated. Did you not see that?
When dealing with extremists, use extreme measures.
In reality, the CIA has covered up so many scandals, this is just the g-string coming off.
You’ve got to be a bit nasty with enemies. It’s not like you’re inviting them over for tea. I don’t believe in the policy of leniency towards captives, especially when at war.
Would the People’s Congress dare to investigate and report back on 610? I’m not asking what would be in the report, just whether they’d dare to do it in the first place!
The US used armed police to attack a religious temple’s housing, but they made it public.
Falun Gong doesn’t have the equipment or the materials. If they did they’d do the same thing Aum Shinrikyo did in Tokyo. A Falun Gong believer already planned to derail a train. I don’t need to go on…
You say that the People’s Congress wouldn’t dare to publish any reports on 610, but I ask you this: do you think that the US Congress would dare to investigate the threats and secret surveillance of anti-war activists during the Vietnam War? Would they dare to investigate US cooperation with drug lords in South America, East Africa and Southeast Asia during the Cold War?
[Replying to the above comment] You’re the one who seems to think that the Party has things like that to hide… I only asked for an explanation as to whether the People’s Congress could make accusations against 610. 610 officials have acknowledged its existence before.
[Replying to the above comment] What is 610? The police should already be knocking on your door… Ah, such incompetent internet police.
[Replying to the above comment] I’m someone who seeks truth from facts. I’m not going to deny that the way that *those people* [T.N. He means Falun Gong members. If you mention the name your post is liable to be censored.] were treated in the labour camps was unfortunate. But they were very stubborn individuals. If they didn’t want to go on, all they had to do was write a reeducation through labour statement and they could have avoided going. It’s not as though the opportunity wasn’t given to them.
The CIA’s actions were all carried out in secret, basically there was no way that they could be regulated effectively. There’s nothing to say that Obama will be able to stop it. What’s come out is only a tiny part of it. It’s hardly surprising.
There’s no point showing any humanity towards terrorists! What country would want them? I hope that one day our country starts treating them like this! These scum aren’t fit to live!
Anyone who kills random innocent people, from the moment he picks up the knife [T.N. Chinese terrorists tend to go in for knife attacks, though it is surprisingly easy to get hold of guns there. Or so I am told.] he loses the right to go on living!
[Replying to the above comment] Your whole argument is based on the premise that the guys on the receiving end are clearly terrorists, so there’s no point talking about human rights, and they should just be exterminates.
But the people that the CIA arrested and even put on trial weren’t necessarily all terrorists. For example, what if the CIA suspected you of being a terrorist, they don’t give you any human rights, just ass rape you… and then after the interrogation they say that they realised that they made a mistake? You wouldn’t think that was an injustice?
[Replying to the above comment] GPWM.
Wassup yo. Just another day in the US hegemony.
CIA torture of Al-Qaeda suspects was far more brutal than acknowledged, did not produce useful intelligence and was so poorly managed it lost track of detainees, a scathing US Senate report revealed Tuesday (Dec 9).
The Central Intelligence Agency also misled the White House and Congress with inaccurate claims about the program’s usefulness in thwarting attacks, the Senate Intelligence Committee said in its graphic report that revived the debate over interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.
President Barack Obama admitted some of the tactics detailed in the explosive report’s 500-page declassified summary were ‘brutal.’ ‘There are a lot of folks who worked very hard after 9/11 to keep us safe, during a very hazardous situation and a time when people were unsure of what was taking place,’ he said in an interview with Telemundo. ‘But what was also true is that we took some steps that were contrary to who we are, contrary to our values.’
Among the findings: a CIA operative used ‘Russian Roulette’ to intimidate a prisoner and another – untrained in interrogation techniques – threatened to use a power drill. Detainees were humiliated through the painful use of medically unnecessary ‘rectal feeding’ and ‘rectal rehydration.’ One died of hypothermia while shackled, some suffered broken limbs.
1. Humans are fucked up.
2. There’s no delicate was of saying this, but… Why the preoccupation with asses? This has to be the A1 gayest account of torture I’ve ever encountered. In case you weren’t previously aware of the fact, no, that stuff isn’t standard operating procedure. Anywhere else in the world, the basic approach just involves beating them until they talk and not getting any closer to another man’s rectum than is strictly necessary.