Sunday, January 13, 2013


Zero Dark Thirty directed by Kathryn Bigelow, is basically a penetrating film about a woman's  obsession and her part in the dramatic search for Usama Bin Laden (UBL).  The movie starts at the beginning of this country's pursuit of UBL and travels through time showing us the manpower, intelligence, interrogation and physical means used to eventually capture “the mastermind” of the September 11, 2001 attack on the USA. To say that this is a film about torture or condoning torture adulterates the vast scope of this massive and critical undertaking. Torture is treated realistically – not gratuitously and in the film is revealed to be both salutary and non-beneficial often resulting in false leads and baseless information. Though there is a documentary aspect to the film – we must not forget that this is an exciting, action MOVIE vividly and artfully dramatized. Time is capsulated, torture is distinctly displayed referencing images that were already familiar to most Americans  from the many photos we had seen at Abu Ghraib which “shocked” our nation around 2004-2006.  Water-boarding, dog collars, humiliating degradation of the detainees were all part and parcel of the news which captured the headlines daily.

The trail starts early - beginning with the attack on 9-11, we hear voices of the people who were trapped in the Twin Towers crying for help. There is a blank darkened screen with no visuals or gut-wrenching images of the coming tragedy.  We then proceed to meeting the young CIA operative, beautifully and cooly acted by Jessica Chastain, who becomes the film's focus. Her quest to capture UBL, which includes pursuing him by finding his associates and getting the intelligence that is needed to link to Bin Laden is her single-track preoccupation. Chastain is fixated on capturing Usama Bin Laden never deviating from her instincts. According to the film – it is her unyielding passionate certainty that propels the movie into the final apprehension and death of UBL. The storming of his compound is electrifying and stunning visually, and the resulting destruction is disastrous and as often happens, innocent lives are tragically lost.

This movie is not as emotionally wrenching as was The Hurt Locker, which fixated on the psychology of those fighting in Iraq and how that War penetrated their very beings and revealed who they were to themselves and their families. Rather this film is about the mechanics and methods used by a US Agency – CIA to carry out the biggest manhunt in American history. It is almost clinical in its depiction – we don’t get intensely involved with the individual characters, but rather we see a Government in action and the individuals who motivate, impel and drive the narrative to get what they feel they need to “protect” our country no matter how ruthless the struggle reminding us that war is hell.


  1. Wonderful article, Grace. Intelligently written, beautifully expressed. It is a great follow up on Roger Densen's article as well. Karen

  2. Kathryn Bigelow discussing her film in
    And in response to the controversy over Zero Dark Thirty‘s depiction of torture, the Los Angeles Times asked director Kathryn Bigelow to write an op-ed about her take on the matter. In it, Bigelow defends her movie, invoking artistic freedom and identifying herself as a pacifist. “I support all protests against the use of torture, and, quite simply, inhumane treatment of any kind,” she wrote. “But I do wonder if some of the sentiments alternately expressed about the film might be more appropriately directed at those who instituted and ordered these U.S. policies, as opposed to a motion picture that brings the story to the screen.” Bigelow also addressed the debate about the role torture did play in the real-life story and said that, despite that lack of clarity about how key such interrogation was in the capture of Osama bin Laden, the truth was that it had happened, and it would be wrong to leave it out of a movie about the topic. Bigelow did not mention the Oscars in her op-ed, but she noted that, if Hollywood filmmakers could not show brutality, the great war films of Hollywood history would not have been made—and that’s a point that may well resonate with Academy voters.

    Read more:

  3. It's interesting (& disheartening) that some folks think the torture scenes shouldn't be included. The reaction is similar to George Bush refusing the media images of returning military folks killed in war. If we don't see it then we don't have to pay attention and if we don't pay attention we don't have to have an opinion. When I saw Zero Dark Thirty the first thing I thought is every adult American needs to see this, so we know what was done in our name and so hopefully more Americans will take a stance against torture and war. - Sue Gambill

  4. Sue - my thoughts exactly and those who say that the CIA was"propped up" by this film are also off course.