Once hyped as a best-picture frontrunner, Zero Dark Thirty snagged only one Oscar at last Sunday's ceremony—for best sound editing, which it won in a tie with Skyfall. What happened? Hollywood observersblame political controversy for killing the film's chances with Academy Voters. And indeed, as if to say "mission accomplished," the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday dropped its highly publicized investigation into whether the filmmakers were given inappropriate access to classified CIA operations.
Ironically, though, the very issue that stoked the film's controversy—its depiction of torture—may ensure it has a bigger, more-lasting legacy than any other film released in 2012. Regardless of whether the movie's actual politics are pro-torture, anti-torture, or somewhere in between, experts in the military and intelligence community say there's good reason to think Zero Dark Thirty will shape how interrogators and policymakers act in the years to come. After all, pop culture's depictions of interrogation and torture have affected real-world practices before.