Zero Dark Thirty



Zero Dark Thirty is Kathryn Bigelow’s heavily Oscar nominated follow up to award winner The Hurt Locker but whereas that film dealt with the trials and tribulations of a bomb disposal squad with the tensions and perils that accompany such a task this latest offering focuses on the hunt and eventual killing of Osama Bin Laden in 2011. It is an extremely audacious film and its subject matter so fresh in everyone’s mind with little chance of historical perspective as the events are still relatively current with any after effects or comebacks  yet to emerge. Bigelow however has not let such matters cow her and the film is a thrilling, involving and detailed construction of the events leading up to that fateful historic day in May less than two years ago.

The film starts with recorded messages from victims trapped in the Twin Towers on 9/11 and we can hear the fear, pain and confusion in their voices before the action switches to two years on in 2003 and an undisclosed detainee camp where a CIA operative, Maya (Jessica Chastain), is taken into witness a prisoner being tortured. Being relatively new to this, her anxiety and discomfort with such methods are painfully obvious but she recognises that such methods bring results despite being highly attuned to the fact that they cannot continue once the rest of the world discovers such brutal measures are being deployed. Her desire in tracking down Bin Laden has been sealed however and her resolve only increases-to the point of obsession- after she is involved in a bomb attack herself and even more so when later a colleague and close acquaintance is killed in a suicide bomb incident. From this point on her passion for capturing Bin Laden is all consuming but her determination and unwavering belief she is on the right track eventually wins out over the indecisiveness of her superiors and eventually, after much soul searching, heartache and frustration, the night swoop-the Zero Dark Thirty of the title- which killed the world’s most wanted man is underway with the result the whole world is now aware of.

It would be hard to review this film without mentioning the TV series ‘Homeland’ which also features a female CIA operative –Carrie Mathieson- obsessed with tracking down a terrorist, also to the point of obsession, and Chastaine’s Maya unfortunately does not have weeks to build up a character unlike her TV counterpart who is a much more fully formed but just as irritating character. I couldn’t help but feel a bit of referencing going on though, in particular the scene where Maya’ has a confrontation with her superior and her passion could almost be mistaken for insane madness rather than conviction- similar to Carrie- and the word ‘Homeland’ is actually bandied about the scene repeatedly during this heated exchange.

Despite these similarities Zero Dark Thirty is still a wholly absorbing film which never lets up or disappoints. How accurate a portrayal it is –it is essentially America-centric and shows only their perspective but then again it is their story to tell in this instance- will be revealed once other facts about the actual mission eventually start to emerge. There has been some controversy concerning the torture sequences but ,to be honest, they are not too disturbing and suspicions linger they have actually been downplayed and cleaned up for public consumption. However as a knee jerk response to a great and extremely important part of our  recent history it is more than adequate for the moment and quite possibly even exceeds expectations.

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