Cast: Jessica Chastain, Chris Pratt, Edgar Ramirez, Jason Clarke, Jennifer Ehle, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong
“Zero Dark Thirty” (Military Jargon for Half Past Midnight) is a film about the decade long search by an elite team of intelligence and military operatives, working in secret across the globe, devoted to a single goal; to find and eliminate Osama bin Laden, the world’s most dangerous man.
CIA Agent Maya: “There are two narratives about the location of Osama bin Laden. The one that you’re most familiar with is that UBL is hiding in a cave in the tribal areas, that he’s surrounded by a large contingent of loyal fighters. But that narrative is pre-9/11 understanding of UBL. The second narrative is that he’s living in a city, living in a city with multiple points of egress and entry, access to communications, so that he can keep in touch with the organization. You can’t run a global network of interconnected cells from a cave.”
And so our doggedly determined heroine played brilliantly by Jessica Chastain (Lawless, The Help) begins her obsessive 10-year search for the most wanted terrorist in the world amid harsh interrogations, spotty information, repeated setbacks, and heavy bouts of political in-fighting.
You’ll find “Zero Dark Thirty” to be much more than a hunt him down and kill him film; it’s actually a hybrid. Though there’s lots of action and danger for the characters at every turn, in ways both brutal and engrossing, this is more a procedural film about methods and process, stumbling blocks and blind alleys, death and survival. A fascinating journey of tactics and obsession…and sudden death.
Even though we know the outcome of the film, Kathryn Bigelow’s (The Hurt Locker) direction and vision for this film combined with Mark Boal’s superb screenplay succeeds in generating enormous tension as it layers on story element after story element until it truly captures the context of the situation and the times they fit into. The film asks no questions of the audience or of itself, makes no conclusions about the actions taken, and yet still manages to make us feel what we and the hunters must have felt at that climactic moment in history…relief. That is the brilliance of this movie.
The film is almost three hours long, yet to me it felt fast. The climactic scene, that of S.E.A.L. Team Six’s raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound; a pinpoint-honed logistical operation, and his subsequent assassination is played out in meticulous detail. I felt I was actually seeing events as they happened, just like I imagine Maya did, on a screen from a distance. I’d hate to have someone like her on my trail, but knowing that there are people like her watching over the country, makes me feel just a little safer.
This is a must see film, but be warned, the action is brutal and disturbing, just like real life.