ZERO DARK THIRTY: Boots-on-the-ground thrill ride.

Par Alan Hustak le 14 janvier 2013

Ignore the controversy over whether the Americans used torture in their hunt for Osama Bin Laden, Zero Dark 30 is a boots- on- the- ground suspense thriller about the raid on his compound in  Abbottabad  which left Bin Laden and three others dead.    The movie is a draining,  morally complex exercise  that owes it success to director Kathryn Ann Bigelow and  to Jessica Chastain, in the role of  Maya,  the CIA operative whose intuition about the Al Qaeda  leader  is ignored  by her superiors, including the head of the CIA,  (James Gandolfini)  precisely because she is  woman.   

zero_dark_thirty.jpgChastain, who won a Golden Globe  for her meticulously controlled portrayal of a conflicted  avenging agent  was on the money in her acceptance speech  when she said the film  disobeys the conventions of Hollywood because it  empowers women.   When is the last time you’ve seen a heroine take on the CIA , win, and then  be able to  boast about it in a quietly triumphant declaration to her boss:   “I’m the mother fucker that found the place, sir!”

The movie spans a nine-year  period  that begins  shortly after the 9-11 attacks  and ends  19 months ago.  The  suspense  builds  slowly  starting during the Bush years as the  CIA tries to get a lead on Al Qaeda  terrorists who brought down the World Trade Towers.  When  the  compound  where some ” bad guys”  may  be is finally located in Pakistan during  Obama’s first term  in office,  no one is  certain whether  Bin Laden himself  is in it.    Not about to risk another debacle like the one that led the U.S. into a needless and senseless war in Iraq, the military operation to take him out  can’t proceed unless the investigators  offer  proof positive that Bin Laden is in fact, in the building.  

 Maya has a hunch he is.  She builds  her  case  combining  small clues with intuition,  follows inconclusive leads,  ends up with some dead ends and all the while withstands the ridicule of a  CIA boss (Mark Strong)  who  orders his team to  “Bring me people to kill.”  

The final half hour of the film is a  terrifying  twenty-five minutes of dark,  green-tinted movement  as seen through night-vision goggles worn by the Navy Seals as they break into the compound, search the place and carry out their executions. The film also works because unknown actors add to the realism of the moment.  Zero Dark 30 is not as good  as  Bigelow’s  Oscar winning The Hurt Locker  but it is riveting.  Even though we  knows how  it is  going to end  we  are never  certain how  it will get there.

Best described as a “Mockumentary”   Zero Dark 30  takes  its name from the military code for 12:30 a.m., when the Seal Raid actually occurred.  In spite of the controversial  buzz  being circulated about its “authenticity”  the film neither condones the use of torture, nor does it condemn it.  The provocative waterboarding scenes early in the movie are there to illustrate how easy it is for anyone  to compromise their ethics and principles under threat  and when you are blinded by  patriotism.



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