The film suggests that waterboarding and coercive interrogation tactics were instrumental in gathering information ahead of the successful raid on Bin Laden's compound in May 2011.
McCain, a Republican senator for the state of Arizona, joined two Democrats – Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin – to write a public letter to Michael Lynton, the chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures, which backed the picture. They claim that Zero Dark Thirty is "grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the capture".
Feinstein is the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating the interrogation programme adopted by the CIA during the Bush administration. She has insisted that information obtained by waterboarding did not play a significant role in the search for Bin Laden.
The letter calls on Sony Pictures to "consider correcting the impression that the CIA's use of coercive interrogation led to the operation".
Directed by Bigelow and scripted by Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty focuses on the behind-the-scenes operation to track Bin Laden via a shadowy network of al-Qaida couriers. The film implies that waterboarding was rife during the early years of George W Bush's "war on terror" but that the tactic was abandoned following Barack Obama's election in 2008. At one stage, Obama is shown on a TV screen insisting that "America doesn't torture."
Bigelow won the best film and director Oscar for her last movie, The Hurt Locker, and Zero Dark Thirty is already tipped as a possible contender for the top awards next February. The film opens in the US this week and is released in the UK on 25 January.
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