Zero Dark Thirty
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Written by Mark Boal
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Chris Pratt, Kyle Chandler, Mark Duplass Columbia Pictures
Rated R | 160 Minutes
Release Date: January 11, 2013
“I’m the motherfucker who found this place.” – Maya (Jessica Chastain)
For over a decade, an elite team of intelligence and military operatives, working in secret across the globe, devoted themselves to a single goal: to find and eliminate Osama bin Laden.
Zero Dark Thirty reunites the Academy Award-winning team of director-producer Kathryn Bigelow and writer-producer Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker) for
the story of history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man.
As I’m sure you’re aware, Zero Dark Thirty features graphic scenes of enhanced interrogation tactics that were implemented by the Bush administration after 9-11, techniques like waterboarding and sexual humiliation that are illegal under international law.
It seems like many political commentators and CIA officials are worried that, by including the dark side of the government’s hunt for Al Qaeda, Bigelow’s film may give viewers the wrong impression: that the brutal interrogation methods are the reason we located Bin Laden’s compound.
That’s simply not the case and anyone who walks out of Zero Dark Thirty with the impression that it takes a pro-torture stance didn’t pay attention to the intricacies of the narrative. Depiction is not endorsement, and if it was, no artist could ever portray inhuman practices; no author could ever write about them; and no filmmaker could ever explore them.
This film was informed by extensive research and interviews from inside sources conducted by Boal, who was an investigative journalist before becoming a screenwriter. It’s important to remember, however, that Zero Dark Thirty is a dramatic retelling of real events and not a documentary. It’s being denounced by politicians and officials trying to cover their own asses, surrounding the film in controversy.
Zero Dark Thirty is a technical tour de force and a potent, gratifying piece of American cinema. Oscar-nominated Jessica Chastain stars as Maya, an intelligence expert recruited out of high school who dedicated a decade of her life to tracking down the world’s most wanted terrorist.
Chastain is joined by an impressive ensemble of actors including Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Chris Pratt, Kyle Chandler, Mark Duplass, and James Gandolfini who portray the real agents, analysts, officials, and soldiers responsible for locating bin Laden.
Bigelow and Boal have created a provocative boots-on-the-ground thriller and a force to be reckoned with this awards season. Chastain delivers one of the year’s finest performances along with Clarke who introduces himself to a detainee with an admission: “Can I be honest with you? I’m bad fucking news… I’m not your friend. I’m not going to help you. I’m going to break you… any questions?”
The final 40 minutes of Zero Dark Thirty recreates the raid on bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound by SEAL Team Six with such precision and suspense that it defies the limitations of the moving image and borders on virtual reality – a visceral, immersive experience that illustrates Bigelow’s technical prowess as a filmmaker.
When it’s all said and done, and the Navy SEALs have loaded Osama bin Laden’s corpse on a top secret stealth helicopter (that looks straight out of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films), Maya boards a military C-130 and, for the first time in a decade, is uncertain of what to do next. Her mission accomplished, her destiny fulfilled, Maya begins to cry.
To quote filmmaker Sam Peckinpah, “The end of a picture is always the end of a life.” Maya has dedicated her life to the pursuit of finding bin Laden and now, after years of searching, the hunt is over. Bin Laden’s life has come to an end, and as the loading ramp closes and the plane prepares for takeoff, it would seem that Maya’s life is at an end as well.