By Aaron Moran (Ireland)
‘It took a while but we find them all, don’t you worry about that.’
Zero Dark Thirty is simple in its idea, a movie about the ten-year search to find and kill Osama Bin Laden, enemy No 1. That’s it, and while the synopsis is simple the story is anything but. To understand the gravity of this situation you have to go back to the beginning, when on the 11th of September 2001 a fully booked American airliner crashed into the side of the first Twin Tower. After that everything changed, America most definitely did and so did its citizens. People no longer felt safe in the country they called home, they demanded that the American Government should react and that whoever committed this act of terrorism must be found, and react they did.
It was under this intense pressure from the people demanding justice that began a ten-year long manhunt which ended on the 2nd of May 2011 in Abbottabad, Pakistan. This is where Kathryn Bigelow and her Hurt Locker screenwriter/journalist come in. Their aim with ZD30 is to document and dramatize the events leading up to and eventually the climax of this story.
This is a procedural drama disguised as a thriller, it’s a film that surrounds characters who sit and stare at computer screens looking for one piece of information that could give them a lead, this is their story and Bigelow tells it brilliantly. Jessica Chastain plays Maya, an idealistic young woman fresh out of high school and willing to help, we also learn she’s a killer at what she does. Throughout the course of the films 2 and a half hour running time this is all we learn about our heroine.
Maya is a blank canvas, as brittle as a child when the film begins and as hard as stone by the time it ends. She is molded by her job and shaped by the journey she is forced to go on. At the beginning the search is simply her assignment, by the end it’s her obsession, and Chastain plays it brilliantly, she slips into the role with such ease and plays it to perfection that it makes you wonder has there ever been an actress with the same range and versatility of this woman.
Bigelow has always been unafraid of taboo and she proves this once again in her tackling of the horrible treatment and torture of suspected Al-Qaeda members. She never tries to answer the question of if torture is ever acceptable, she only asks it, leaving the viewer to decide. These sequences are grueling and by far the toughest aspect of the film.
Zero Dark Thirty is a film which will infuriate and intrigue audiences evenly, by Bigelow refusing to make a statement about what she thinks of the situation she instead chooses to only show it for what ‘it’ is. She has crafted a fantastic film here with two hours of engrossing manhunt and then the final 30 minutes, the payoff we have all waited for with baited breath, the storming of the compound. Who would have thought that knowing how it ends can leave you feeling the same tension as if this was simply great fiction.
Chastain should be showered with awards and Bigelow should be commended for her courage, this is simply great film-making.