From Start to Finish, This Film Is “Killer”
ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012/IN THEATERS) Up for 5 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Original Screenplay, it is still shocking to think that Kathryn Bigelow was left off the Oscar Best Director nominee list. Of course, the common assumption is that she is being punished by liberal Hollywood for including realistic (and very uncomfortable) scenes of Americans using torture in her picture. Depiction is not endorsement, says Bigelow, most recently in her LA Times Op Ed. Why not focus your disapproval on our government that even now allows some level of “enhanced interrogation” in the continuing war on terrorism. Bigelow stands by her film, scripted by former journalist Mark Boal who also wrote the screenplay for their previous Oscar winning partnership on “The Hurt Locker.” Of note, the two had originally been working on a film about the search for Bin Laden, centering on the December 2001 failed Tora Bora effort and in fact, were about to begin filming when news broke that he had been killed in Pakistan. They quickly redirected their focus and created a film as intense as anything you will see in the theater and completely absorbing. The 157 minute movie basically breaks into three parts, all anchored by the character of Maya (Jessica Chastain), a tough as nails CIA analyst who just won’t take no for an answer. It’s the opening portion that introduces the audience to torture and to Maya, who looks slim and frail but quickly reveals her steely self.
“Washington says she’s a killer,” says one of her new cohorts in Afghanistan. Working with a seasoned analyst named Dan (Australian Jason Clarke), Maya soon becomes a major force on the Bin Laden team. Joining her at the table is Jessica (Jennifer Ehle), another woman who has been working hard to find the needle in the haystack….and that’s what this movie really depicts so well. My favorite part is right in the middle of the film, when a ground crew uses a cell phone signal to track the courier who will eventually lead them to Bin Laden himself. As the CIA ground team drives literally in circles trying to spot someone they have never even seen, the camera pulls back to reveal the chaos of the marketplace. It’s an effective reminder of just how difficult this task was and how impressive the ultimate CIA effort was. The final part of the film is equally effective, re-enacting the raid on the compound in Pakistan where Bin Laden was located and killed. The Seal Team 6 guys are portrayed as focused but still human and the use of night vision green makes it all seem real. It’s hard to think of any way that this film could be better—I highly recommend it. Kudos to Bigelow and Boal—they are every bit as tough as their heroine Maya.