Panetta Passes On Critiquing ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ — ‘I Lived It’

Photograph by Richard Olley/Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection

A scene from Zero Dark Thirty.

On a flight to Lisbon today, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had a chance to
weigh in on the controversial, Oscar-nominated film “Zero Dark Thirty,” which depicts the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

Senators including Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, have criticized the film for suggesting that harsh interrogation techniques yielded crucial information that led to bin Laden.

Panetta, as head of the Central Intelligence Agency at the time, played a pivotal role in directing the raid. James Gandolfini of “The Sopranos” fame plays Panetta in the movie, which opened in limited release on Dec. 19 and went wide this past weekend.

If Panetta is troubled by the film, he wasn’t willing to say so today. He stopped short of offering any critique.

“You know what?” he told reporters on his plane when asked about the film. “I lived it.”

“Zero Dark Thirty” proved the weekend’s top-grossing film in the U.S. and Canadian markets, taking in $24 million. Its Oscar nominations include Best Picture and Best Actress (Jessica Chastain). The Golden Globe award for best actress has gone to Chastain, who draws a cafeteria visit from Gandolfini playing Panetta in the film, with praise for her work on the bin Laden hunt.

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