Zero Dark Thirty 2012 Movie Scene Jessica Chastain as Maya pointing on the map where she thinks Osama bin Laden is hiding

Zero Dark Thirty [2012]

It would seem that Kathryn Bigelow after her great success with The Hurt Locker gained enough credit to do this little big movie about the hunt for the most wanted man on a planet. Zero Dark Thirty is a compelling and gritty thriller about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Originally, it was supposed to be a movie about an unsuccessful 10-year effort to capture the most wanted man on the planet. However, we all know what happened then. This is why they had to go back and rewrite the story. I mean they had to include the major new developments, namely the killing of Osama.

Now, I first checked out a TV movie Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden, so I roughly knew the story. What I didn’t know was everything that was going on behind the scenes. And this is something the movie shows in great detail. Namely, Zero Dark Thirty shows the barbaric methods the US used to obtain Osama’s location. Torture or “enhanced interrogation” as the apologists like to call this practice has been around since the dawn of time. And it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

I’m not going to go into the whole moral debate of right and wrong as that would take up far too much space. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that the US has been embroiled in the Middle East for quite some time. This is something we won’t see in the movie but you can research on your own. Or watch a documentary on that subject. Zero Dark Thirty actually feels like more of a documentary than a movie. Yeah, it sure looks like a regular movie, but the direction, storytelling, and everything else screams documentary.

All it’s missing is Morgan Freeman or David Attenborough to be complete. Now that would be a fun experience. We start with a young female operative, inexperienced and unaccustomed to torture. She quickly learns all about waterboarding and all the fun stuff. As we follow her, we learn more and more about the actual processes that led to the capture. And the lengths people are willing to go to achieve their goals. This is the thing I like the most about the movie. Zero Dark Thirty tries to be as neutral as possible. It’s not loaded with patriotism or bloodlust nor it is melodramatic or biased.

It leaves all of that to the viewers, asking them to draw their own conclusions. If they want to, of course. Mostly because you can watch this movie just as another movie and learn more about what happened after that horrible September. As you might’ve noticed there’s a lot to unpack here and that explains the two-and-a-half-hour running time. However, I assure you that this is not one of those boring movies. Just hit that play button and see how you feel. The storytelling is so compelling that after the first 15 minutes, you will be hooked.

Additionally, you will know that an explosive and intense finale is surely coming. The raid itself felt like it was from a video game. Like you’re watching Call of Duty or Battlefield on the big screen. The time from start to finish was around 25 minutes, almost exactly the same as in the real-life raid on Osama. One of the reasons why this movie still generates a lot of controversy is those torture scenes. They are truly impactful and quite difficult to sit through. Again we see just how good of a director Kathryn Bigelow truly is.

Those scenes illicit a human response. You feel like you should do something about them like you should prevent human suffering. At least that’s what I felt. And then there’s the whole moral dilemma of how far are you willing to go. Judging by what’s going on in Guantanamo Bay even as you’re reading these lines, some people are willing to go there. And we all know that the CIA has black sites and black ops, but let’s not get bogged down in this.

I want to mention Jessica Chastain who was bloody brilliant. I didn’t think she had it in her, what an idiot I am. Reda Kateb, a highly talented French actor, also gave a stunning performance as Ammar. Finally, if you’re looking for a movie like Zero Dark Thirty, there’s only one thing that fits the bill. Homeland is a gripping television show starring Claire Danes as a tough CIA operative working in the Middle East. I highly recommend you check it out.

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Writer: Mark Boal

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Ehle, Reda Kateb, Jason Clarke

Fun Facts: The guy who actually eliminated Osama bin Laden said that the secret CIA operator Jessica Chastain plays in this movie is “the bravest woman he has ever met”.


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