The mission to find and kill Osama Bin Laden was long and arduous. This fictionalized telling of a mostly true story reminds us how hard America worked to get its revenge for the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01.
The depiction of the raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, looks like video of the real thing. But it is not. It’s a movie—a remarkably well-done movie. This final half hour of Zero Dark Thirty is the money shot, the reason to see the film.
Zero Dark Thirty’s central character is Maya, played by Jessica Chastain. She’s a CIA operative who is the driving force behind the search for Bin Laden. She is not a real person, but a combination of several people who have shared their information with the film’s screenwriter, Mark Boal.
Zero Dark Thirty shows the CIA torturing those they believe have information. One operative tells a detainee, “When you lie to me, I hurt you.” Depictions of waterboarding in the film are followed later by footage of President Obama stating, “America doesn’t torture.” One agent, as he is about to leave a CIA Black Ops site at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, says he’s going stateside because he has “just seen too many guys naked.”
Solid information is hard to come by. A planned meeting with a supposed informant at another base in Afghanistan results in an explosion that takes several lives. An angry meeting at CIA HQ reveals the frustration of the search with the shouted words, “Bring me people to kill!”
Then, when indications are strong that Osama is in the Abbottabad compound, the CIA waits for authorization from the White House to strike. Maya begins a daily update on the glass window of her office of the number of days from the time he has been located. When the number of days top 100, frustration mounts.
Finally, the raid is authorized and on 5/1/11, the deed is done.
Zero Dark Thirty may not be the best movie of 2012, but its slow buildup to a big payoff demonstrates excellent filmmaking skill. Credit director Kathryn Bigelow, as Oscar winner two years ago for The Hurt Locker, for another memorable film. Chastain is the frontrunner for the Best Actress Oscar and deservedly so.
Zero Dark Thirty is powerful stuff. Don’t miss it.