January 12, 2013
I expected a lot from "Zero Dark Thirty" because of all the awards buzz it is receiving lately, the latest being nominated for Oscar Best Picture. It was the next project of Kathryn Bigelow who impressed me with her direction of "The Hurt Locker." It was supposed to show us what really happened behind what it calls the "greatest manhunt in history"-- that of the mastermind terrorist, Osama Bin Laden (whom the movie called UBL).
We follow a character named Maya (Jessica Chastain) whom we know or learn nothing about, except that her whole career after college was devoted to the search for UBL. Too bad we never really knew anything more about her background for us to root for her obsession. She was not really the "cool" person we expect these CIA operatives to be. There were several scenes where Maya seemed very unprofessional in her behavior. Maya discussed confidential matters publicly in a restaurant. She screamed and threatened her superior in a corridor. She writes numbers on the glass pane of her boss' office to countdown the days of inaction. They may be good for cinematic drama, but these were very unrealistic for a film that was supposedly factual.
Watching this film could be an ordeal as the story was told in a VERY slow burn. This is a 2 and a half hour film, mind you, for a story with an ending we already know. The first hour we see how CIA torture suspects from 911, and witness various suicide bombings. The second hour we see Maya act on a random tip about a courier who could be working for UBL. We then wait 130 days with her for the higher-ups to approve a raid on a compound in Pakistan where she was 100% sure UBL was located based on circumstantial evidence, with no direct visualization.
It was only in the last 30 minutes that we finally see the raid on the UBL compound we had been waiting for. This was a riveting sequence of masterful film editing and night vision cinematography. The very final scene was a very quiet reflective scene that somehow made the whole movie make so much sense. That scene was poignant beyond words. It was only these last 30 minutes that really mattered to me, and maybe also to you.