It’s not often you come across such powerful, intelligent-driven CIA-operative historical thrillers that really plunges you into a curious decade-long manhunt of a past you yourself knew, but never had the chance to walk through, nor experience. In a period of espionage-driven USA Network television shows like Annie Walker in her worldwide CIA missions in Covert Affairs, and the gigantic streamline of man-hungry individuals tactfully killing off foreign nations in popular multiplayer video-games Call of Duty, Modern Warfare, and Black Ops, Zero Dark Thirty is that chance film that comes rarely in one’s lifetime, tying in recollections of journalistic narratives, newspaper headlines, adrenaline-ridden desires, and Americans’ natural curiosities for gossip and information.
This is easily a highly impressive film and one of 2012’s bests. People are saying that this film knocks out director-producer Kathryn Bigelow’s previous success with The Hurt Locker (though I’ve never seen it), and remains one of her most impressive, hard-hitting works.
Opening up with the torture sequences of post-911 as we observe the behaviors of the leading characters Maya (Jessica Chastain), the young CIA analyst who looks over with kept horror and obliging approval, and the torturer Dan (Jason Clarke), the rugged, bearded man with threats such as, “When you lie to me, I hurt you,” in hopes of extracting information, we are faced with horrific, tantalizing scenes that makes us question U.S. torture tactics.
The film moves on further down the timeline from the beginning in 2001 to the final, inevitable execution in 2011. We watch and become more acquainted with Maya and her growing obsession with the courier to the dangerous Osama bin Laden over her years, eyeing in on possible leads in the Saudi Group. As recruited fresh out of high school, her youth borne of the information age makes her a powerful asset, with all her information-hungry inexperience, proving fresh to the outdated Cold War logic of CIA veterans. This film immerses us into the brilliant, intellectual processes of Maya as she attempts to find and discover where in the hell on earth this man could be. Jessica Chastain acts with such a quiet fervor in which every little reaction her character has immediately turns into a plan for action. As her journey becomes a lonely one, as she spends 10-years of her life eyeing in on this one target, she watches friends and acquaintances leave and die over the years as she navigates her way through complicating suspects, codes, and suicide bombers who tactfully play into the U.S. system.
The most exciting part of the film, as any one can say to date, is the infamous “Canaries” scene, in which the mission begins as the Navy SEALs Team 6 enter the household of the brothers, wives, and children of bin Laden at 00:00:30, in which OBL himself is thought to live as well. It truly is a beauty to see this part of the film play out, as we are walked-through the entire suspense-driven, edge-of-your-seat, keep-your-eyes-peeled mission of entering and executing the “jackpot”. It’s exciting, nostalgic, and heart-rendering. It brings all those dreams you played out in Call of Duty and all those other war-narrative games and brings it to life, appealing to all your spy-driven, intelligence desires.
But, enough of my synopsis. This film is a journey you will just have to experience yourself. The length of this film was perfect enough to get all of the information across to really take you through an entire 10-year journey with such ease. Although this is a dramatic movie adaptation and the film has received some controversy due to its seemingly pro-torture stance and possible leakage of classified materials, we have to remember that this is a movie and may not accurately represent the lives of those directly involved in the CIA–but, beyond all allegations and legalities, this was a brilliant film, regardless.It may just be my tomboyism that attracts me to such espionage, intelligent-driven stories (no, this is not exactly an action-adventure film–put back your guns and put those thinking caps back on!), this film moved in all the right directions (as well as being such a relief to the short, escapist films common to the box office today). This film speaks greatly of the world we live in now, taking a look back at the rather cathartic trip of “the story of history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man.”
What left me most curious was the end of the film, observing Maya’s reactions and response to the entire mission. Did she show no sign of relief after unveiling the body of the said-bin Laden? Did she show no happiness or fulfillment from finally “succeeding” at executing the most “dangerous man”? Were those tears of exhaustion and relief from finally, after a long and gruesome 10 years, getting the man, or was it a failure? Did the U.S. just put on their happy faces and relieve the public’s restlessness saying, “Yes, we got him, we can all rest happy now”? Oh, the uncertainty! Who will ever know…