As you probably know, the film is about the hunt and eventual killing of terrorist leader, Osama Bin Laden. It’s also received a host of accolades, Academy Award nominations, and mild controversy – most notably regarding depictions of torture and improper access to secret information which was given to the filmmakers.
So why put off a review?
I’ve been waiting… well, for something really to say about this film.
It’s beautifully crafted, expertly directed, superbly acted, but what more is there to say?
Despite all Zero Dark Thirty has going for it, I had little to take away, and I guess that’s the biggest surprise.
The Hurt Locker (2008) was different. That film was completely engrossing, pulling me in so that I not only felt for the lead character, played by Jeremy Renner, but that I also imagined I was there right by his side. Well, until the end of the film when he left his family to head back to his new home overseas. By that time – not being a soldier-at-heart – I was ready to return to normality. The credits rolled and I did, but with a greater respect for what the soldiers – the individuals that are the true force of our military – go through both overseas and at home.
Zero Dark Thirty had a greater challenge ahead of itself. First, it was trying to depict a true story, rather than fiction (even if fictionalized). It was trying to portray the immensity of the hunt for one man. And it was trying to take a decade-or-so long manhunt down to feature movie length. No easy feat.
It did it all so well, perhaps, that I didn’t bat an eye at the scenes of torture (nothing compared to videos of beheadings broadcast by terrorists). I don’t believe it glorified torture or even portrayed it as necessary to find Bin Laden, but just that it was something which was done so they had to show it.
Knowing how the story was going to end, I had no fear when roadblocks got in the way of fictionalized CIA agent, Maya, played expertly by Jessica Chastain. At the same time, the film didn’t vear off on a feminist agenda with Chastain’s roll.
In the end, the only takeaway was the inevitable attack on Bin Laden’s compound and his eventual death. It was done with the expertise and care to detail previously shown in The Hurt Locker, but with the added impact of knowing it was close to accurate. But the only real revelation was in seeing the level of skill of the Navy Seal team which worked almost robotically to remove any potential threats as they went into the unknown.
Yes, they killed more than just armed me. Yes, they uncaringly shot their opponents even after they lay on the ground bleeding. Yes, Bin Laden was unarmed when he was shot dead. Why? Because in that environment, every single thing is a thread until they know for certain otherwise.
And, in that environment, despite the use of lethal force and them being put into a situation which made them into assassins, I still found myself admiring them.
If you see Zero Dark Thirty, maybe you’ll take away something different or more than I did. Perhaps I waited too long to see it and my view was poisoned by media coverage of controversies. Or maybe knowing that killing one man will not end the violence and hatred.
But I do recommend you see Zero Dark Thirty and render your own judgement.