<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Starring Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Ehle
Oscar-nominated and overly-praised, this recounting of the 12-year-long investigation by the CIA to hunt down the most wanted man on the planet is more like a documentary albeit a very well-made one.
I read today in the paper, just after watching Zero Dark Thirty, that Metallica has urged the US federal investigative agencies to kindly stop playing their music to torture terrorist detainees. And I was like wow, they just played some very loud, very heavy metal music to sleep deprive a guy they were interrogating in ZDT. Anyway, apparently some other band isn’t so apolitical and wants the government to play their music to torture the hell out of terrorists. Now that’s patriotism for you folks!
Director Kathryn Bigelow (Oscar Award-winner for Hurt Locker) and screenwriter Mark Boal are at it again on the whole war against terror after 9/11. Just like the arduous process the actual CIA faced, sifting through detainee testimony, a million leads, torturing prisoners and trying to get through some red tape, Katherine proceeds to recount the onerous course that lead to the US finally killing Osama Bin Laden. The man responsible for the death of 3000 American citizens in the 9/11 terrorist attacks was ultimately caught by a red headed, go-getting, gutsy woman called Maya: well, at least in the film (the actual story is still not completely known).
Maya is played by the female Jeremy Renner – Jessica Chastain; I say this because she’s in every other big film nowadays innit! Though she’s a much better actor than Renner. She has to be to carry a character with no background story or motivation who has no friends and whose sole mission is to hunt down UBL (Osama Bin Laden).
Chapter by chapter, year by year, with dates, more terrorist attacks (like the one in London) and places and even little chapter captions between events, Zero Dark Thirty sets out on a journey to show you how a small team of CIA operatives were charged with the onerous albeit important job. What I noticed about ZDT was that director Bigelow never tries to make Maya a larger-than-life hero. The men in the film are clearly stronger and more powerful figures. She can only stand in a corner of the room and say “I’m the motherfucker who found him,” to the CIA director who wryly replies, “Really” and then just gets on with business. Which is probably true of these organisations and something I found refreshing: there’s no need to make Maya’s character a super hero. Though she is tough as nails and only sheds a tear at the end when she doesn’t know what is next for her life.
Yes there are scenes of torture but if you’ve seen the Saw films you won’t be half as horrified. I mean if I could save 1000 lives by inflicting some pain on a terrorist I wouldn’t think twice. Would you? Really? Your loved ones… on a bus… going to blow up… Yeah you could be a motherfucker too!
Painfully long (2 hours, 40 minutes), too real even at the end, which you know is coming and you pretty much know how it was done, it’s pretty slow and lacking in high paced drama. I mean there’s realism and then there’s just plain dull. I was actually waiting for the film to end, which isn’t a good thing. It has its place in history as a retelling of a landmark moment so that’s why it’s up there, otherwise it wouldn’t be in consideration.