Arts & Entertainment - Movie Review: Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty chronicles the decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden into a movie that’s a little over two hours.
It begins with actual video and audio from 9/11. Then it cuts to 2003, when a CIA operative named Dan (Jason Clarke, Public Enemies) and his colleague Maya (The Debt’s Jessica Chastain, who was nominated for an Oscar for this role) preside over the interrogation of a detainee with links to several Saudi terrorist organizations at a CIA black site in Pakistan.
For the first 20-30 minutes, Dan tortures this man in a very disturbing sequence: he beats him, strips him naked in front of Maya, water boards him, chains him like a dog, and shoves him in a small box. It’s very disturbing. If you’re squeamish, it’s not a good idea for you to watch this movie. Director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) – who should’ve been nominated for an Oscar, but was snubbed – drew plenty of controversy for this scene. Contrary to Internet chatter, she is not out to glorify torture – that so does not come out in her work. She is simply demonstrating a dark period in American history where the “good guys” in the CIA were using any means necessary to find information on bin Laden and checking their consciences at the door while doing so.
Eventually, the detainee breaks and reveals he has an acquaintance using the alias Abu Ahmed who happens to be the personal courier for bin Laden. The rest of the movie is spent looking for the 9/11 mastermind as Maya, a woman without many friends or close relatives, makes it her mission in life to hunt bin Laden down, something she does with a maniacal intensity that crosses miles over the line of obsession. Bigelow shows how this personal mission takes its toll on Maya, especially in the final scene of the movie.
Due to Maya’s relentless tenacity, she finally finds out where bin Laden was holed up and the hoop-jumping she and her colleagues went through to finally get the President to approve the Navy SEALs going into bin Laden’s compound in 2011, where they killed him.
Bigelow leaves a few things ambiguous at the end, which is her modus operandi. That ambiguity spills over into your feelings about Zero Dark Thirty. You know how the movie ends, but you’re not quite sure how you feel about it when you leave the theaters.

GRADE: B+

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