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.