x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Secret agent Oscar

The CIA had a good night at the Academy Awards ceremony, as two winning movies portrayed the agency in a reasonably good light.

Last year was a good year at the box office for the CIA. And the icing on the cake was acknowledgement at yesterday's Academy Awards ceremony for both Argo (the winner of the best picture, adapted screenplay and film-editing awards) and Zero Dark Thirty (which was nominated for best picture and other major awards, and won in the sound-editing category).

Argo, directed by and starring Ben Affleck, is inspired by a true story that was made for Hollywood - the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian operation to rescue six American diplomats in Iran by pretending to make a film. Zero Dark Thirty, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, is based on the 10-year US intelligence operation to find and kill Osama bin Laden.

While they don't shy away from the sometimes ugly realities of the spying game, and don't overtly attempt to be works of propaganda, it's fair to say that both movies paint a positive picture of the CIA and other intelligence agencies. This reflects a recent policy by those agencies to be a little more open about their activities and helpful to those who chronicle them.

Throw in Skyfall, the latest in the franchise about fictional MI6 agent James Bond, which also won two Oscars, and the past year in cinema could almost be seen as a recruitment exercise for western security services.