By Scott Peterson
Zero Dark Thirty is a flat-out behemoth of a film. It is a well oiled machine-made by a director who is firing on all cylinders. This movie is going to be an absolute beast come Oscar time. Is this dramatization of the events leading up to the eventual capture/killing of terrorist Osama Bin Laden 100% factual? Probably not, but as far as I’m concerned, Kathryn Bigelow’s version of the greatest manhunt in history is how everything really went down. Zero Dark Thirty will be forever etched in my mind as the gospel of how “we” got Bin Laden. Much fuss has been made about the torture scenes in the film, but Zero Dark Thirty isn’t a springboard or poster child for the use of torture. The results here are shown to have very little effect on any progress made in the worldwide search for public enemy numero uno. This film doesn’t pick any sides or take any prisoners. It’s Homeland on steroids.
Zero Dark Thirty is centered around Maya (a phenomenal Jessica Chastain), a relentlessly determined CIA agent placed in charge of spearheading the man hunt for Bin Laden. We follow Maya’s character as she evolves from a green around the gills agent who is extremely apprehensive about simple subterfuge, to a myopic bloodhound whose life becomes consumed with tracking down Bin Laden. She has nothing else. It’s “win or go home” on the highest of levels. Only we get the sense Maya has nothing to go home too.
The film starts off with disturbing, yet brilliant, audio footage of the horrific events that took place on September 11, 2001. Brilliant, in the sense that listening to footage of the sheer terror that took place that day is just as harrowing, if not more than, the endless video footage we have all seen ad nauseam. What follows is a decade of ups and downs and hits and misses in a battle of wills filled with utter frustration. What fascinated me the most, were the moments involving all the behind the scenes machinations that you and I will never be privy too. The ultimate payoff should feel like a triumph, but there are no moments of “high fiving” or “flag waving”, just a sense of relief.
Zero Dark Thirty is incendiary. It’s another great semi-factual drama that we all know the end result. The outcome is never in doubt. But just like Argo and Lincoln, we are pinned to our seats with a lead anvil on our chest, waiting for that one chance to just breathe. I didn’t think Kathryn Bigelow could ever surpass the greatness of her 2008 Academy Award winning The Hurt Locker, but Zero Dark Thirty is bigger,better,and more relevant. Much like it’s hero Maya, Bigelow is zeroing in on another trophy for her mantle.
Final Word – 4 Stars