So now in addition to reviewing "Zero Dark Thirty," I'm probably expected to weigh in on whether the movie advocates torture - and whether director Kathryn Bigelow was unfairly snubbed when she didn't get nominated for an Oscar.
The answers are no, and no.
More on that later; but for now let's ask if the movie's any good.
This photo shows Jessica Chastain, as Maya, in “Zero Dark Thirty,” directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
The answer is yes - and yes!
This taut, methodical, well-acted drama about the hunt for Osama bin Laden moves at a steadily accelerating pace - punctuated by outbursts of violence that ably convey the shock and horror of terrorist attacks.
Its highlight is a climactic reconstruction of the mission that nailed al-Qaeda's leader with no U.S. casualties.
During that bravura sequence, Bigelow proves once again that she can play with the big boys; but I still insist she didn't get snubbed, only because she had no chance of winning so soon after taking a statue for 2008's "Hurt Locker."
"Zero's" dazzling, 30-minute climax is scary and authentic, drawing heavily on the two hours of emotional buildup that came before - and there's no cheap thrill in watching the quarry get gunned down.
In fact, Bigelow wisely refuses to show the actual deed; instead, as wives and children scream and weep and scramble for safety, we feel a sort of grim satisfaction that bears all the marks of actual victory in combat.
It's this kind of balance that makes "Zero Dark Thirty" so compelling.
Starting with a sound-only recap of 9/11, it also shows the London bus bombing of 2005 and the destruction of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad - plus another stunning attack for which I was totally unprepared.
So you're really rooting for the CIA's chief operative - known only as Maya, and played with single-minded brilliance by Jessica Chastain - in her quest to find bin Laden.
And yes, that involves some torture.
These scenes are hard to watch, as I'm sure Bigelow and company intended. The victim - that is, one main victim, beautifully played by Reda Kateb - is nicely humanized, and there is no satisfaction in watching the repeated abuse.
If "Zero Dark Thirty" wanted to advocate torture as an interrogation method, it would instead have given us a bunch of faceless goons who deserved what they were getting.
Nor does the storyline indicate that info extracted from this detainee was vital in tracking down bin Laden.
Chastain is quickly proving herself one of our most versatile actresses; she is well supported by Jennifer Ehle (she of the 1995 "Pride and Prejudice") as Maya's only real friend; Mark Strong as a CIA chief; and, as the main interrogator, Jason Clarke - whose magnetic work here will have his agent's phone ringing off the hook.
"Zero Dark Thirty" certainly deserves its five Oscar noms; and it certainly does not deserve the growing boycott by myopic Academy members who can't see anything more about this excellent film than a chance to make themselves sound righteous.
***1/2 (out of four)
The film is rated R for language and violence.