The crowning irony is that Bigelow and Boal have been bashed for the fib meant to make us think while being praised for distortions that fit more neatly into Hollywood’s way of doing business and our own expectations of what makes for a good night at the movies. And perhaps it’s this response to the film that has it exactly backward.
Ultimately, all movies betray reality by making choices, leaving things out, adding things in — by creating drama. Do they owe us the truth if we don’t ask for it? “Lincoln” and “Argo” have the best shots at taking home the top Oscar tonight, with “Zero Dark Thirty” a dark-horse possibility, but whichever movie wins won’t just be the best movie of 2012. It will also be the film that lied to us most convincingly.