Ever since an attack beyond anyone’s worst nightmares shook our nation to its core on a Tuesday morning in September, we’ve tried to remember the sacrifices that have been made for our freedom. Not just by those in the towers but by the brave men and women who risk their lives and livelihoods on a daily basis so that we can live our lives without the fear of another 9-11.
Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” is a tribute to these sacrifices in many ways, it’s also a highly controversial film that has politicians on both sides of the aisle up in arms. This film is a button-pusher to say the least, we can only hope it’s pushing the right ones.
Maya (Jessica Chastain) was recruited by the CIA out of high school and has spent most of her career tracking al-Qaeda’s leader Osama Bin Laden. She is, to put it mildly, obsessed in the most shrewd way possible, and Ms. Chastain’s performance is as subtle and tactical as the brilliant woman she portrays. She devours every lead and follows it through to its finish. Ultimately it’s her tenacity that results in his death.
There is torture in this movie, it’s graphic, disturbing, and difficult to watch. There is no “right way” to talk about this, no “politically correct” process for including it in a narrative, and that is why the hubbub in Washington continues.
Is it accurate? Is it right? Is it wrong? These are the questions being asked. These are the questions posed to you, the viewer. What this film does beautifully is put faces on both sides of that controversy. You see the detainee and you see their interrogator. You are the lens, you be the judge.
No spoiler alert necessary here, you know how this film ends for Bin Laden, but this isn’t really about him. It’s about the people who gave years of their lives to find, capture and kill these terrorists.
While the rest of us were moving on from that Tuesday morning, these people ate, slept, and breathed it for nearly 10 years. They gave their lives, their sleep, and their sanity in pursuit of the terrorists that attacked our home.
May 1, 2011 was the day the Navy Seals found and killed Osama Bin Laden, you may not remember the date, but I’m sure you remember the footage of joyful Americans celebrating this victory in the war on terror. “Zero Dark Thirty” shows no such festivities. The end is somber, thoughtful, and for Maya, a woman who’s given years of her life to this hunt, it’s isolating. There is no pomp and circumstance, there is simply a job completed followed by an uncertain path.
I, along with most movie-goers, am not in any way familiar with military operations. We wouldn’t dare dream of having to make the kind of decisions that must be made in war, and in this film. That doesn’t make them right or wrong. But it does provide perspective, and this film has plenty of heart-wrenching perspective