“Zero Dark Thirty” is, as advertisements deemed it, the untold story of the greatest manhunt in U.S. history. Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) does a good job of bringing the facts to life in what turns out to be a captivating story, in addition to covering the realities of Osama bin Laden’s capture. The star of the show is actress Jessica Chastain, who delivers an excellent and emotional performance as Maya, the CIA operative responsible for finding Osama bin Laden’s compound.
The movie opens with recordings of Sept. 11 911 calls, followed by one of the scenes that drew “Zero Dark Thirty” the most criticisms. The film graphically depicts Ammar, a captured relative of bin Laden, being water-boarded, forced into a tiny box, and being humiliated as he is led around in a dog collar. A shocking way to open a film, many sources close to the actual events – including Sen. John McCain – have said that torturing prisoners was not what led to bin Laden’s capture. From the perspective of the film, though, the torture scenes work to raise the question of “can a woman really capture one of the most dangerous men in the world?” One of the themes in the movie is definitely that of a woman challenging the status quo and succeeding in doing so.
The movie continues along the course of actual events, following failed leads and terrorist attacks, until Maya catches on to the identity of bin Laden’s courier. Many in the CIA organization do not believe that her lead is useful until she engages in a shouting match with her director (Kyle Chandler) and changes his mind. They begin tracking the courier’s phone signal, and he leads them right to the now infamous compound. The rest of the movie follows the Navy Seals’ assault and subsequent killing of Osama bin Laden.
The biggest criticism that the movie has received has come from its use of torture. It has been said that “Zero Dark Thirty” glorifies and promotes torture as an acceptable way of gaining information. I personally disagree and think that it does a great job of staying relatively neutral on the subject. It is made clear throughout the film that our protagonist is uncomfortable with it, and the CIA begins to come under fire for it.
I found “Zero Dark Thirty” to be a very unbiased movie, and I think that is one thing that makes it so enthralling. It does a great job of taking one of the most important events in American history and turning it into a movie that would be just as entertaining as if it were not based on a true story.
The top acting job is put forth by Jessica Chastain, who brings to life the character responsible for finding Osama bin Laden. During the standoff with her boss, she puts forward more emotion than is ever seen on the faces of many actors. Throughout the movie she keeps her self-driven and determined attitude alive, as well as doing a great job of showing the emotional lows that being a CIA spy can lead to as well.
“Zero Dark Thirty” is a film filled with action, humor, f-bombs, and cigarette smoking that accomplishes its job of detailing the killing of the most dangerous terrorist in the world.
Run Time: 157 minutes
Rating: Rated R for language