Kathryn Bigelow has broken the record by being the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director in Academy Awards 2009, with her film, “The Hurt Locker”, who also brought an Oscar for Best Picture. While “The Hurt Locker” talks about the activity of US elite soldiers in Iraq, “Zero Dark Thirty”—her newest film—still talks slightly the same topic. Although she lost her chance to win her second Best Director accolade after the Academy surprisingly snubbed her from the nominations, but “Zero Dark Thirty” still gets its chance to win Best Picture. What makes “Zero Dark Thirty” so promising?
The tagline of this film, “the greatest manhunt in history”, reflects the topic of the films implicitly. “Zero Dark Thirty” records the activities of CIA and US intelligent to find the culprit behind the tragedy of 9/11: Osama Bin Laden. The hunt for Bin Laden is served from the viewpoint of CIA operative named Maya (played by Jessica Chastain). All the tactics, plans, and strategies Maya and her teams have arranged led them to the closest point of their main target. And we all knew how this story ends: Osama Bin Laden was dead in Abottabad, Pakistan, where the operation of US Navy S.E.A.L took place.
“Zero Dark Thirty” becomes a controversy because many parties, especially the government and the CIA itself, said that the reconstruction of the real events in “Zero Dark Thirty” is a pure dramatization (especially regarding to how the CIA tortured the silent detainees to get more information about Bin Laden), and because of that, the film is not a valid reference of what really happened behind the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. But, apart from that, watching “Zero Dark Thirty” is not like watching a film; instead, it’s like watching a documentary of real events. A very total reconstruction and a grand production design make it hard to be ignored. However, totality of a film doesn’t always make the film entertaining and easy to be enjoyed. If I could conclude it in brief, “Zero Dark Thirty” contains of two big parts: the research and the operation. The research part talks more about how Maya and her team gathered data, interviewed the detainee and the suspects, and any other brainy stuffs. That’s why, I think “Zero Dark Thirty” becomes too heavy to be easily enjoyed by average viewers who demand a good entertainment. The topic it raised is not a topic that can be simplified and digested easily. Maybe comparing it to “Argo” is not suitable, but regarding to the almost similar topic (both films talk about governmental tactic and strategies to achieve something in other countries), I guess “Argo” is easier to be absorbed than “Zero Dark Thirty”. Some surprising scenes in this part successfully woke me up from falling asleep (LOL), but wholly it seems plain. The part that most viewers could enjoy is the second part (the operation), when CIA has tracked Bin Laden’s whereabouts and the Navy S.E.A.L started to do the operation around the location. It slowly builds the tension and successfully relieves the stress in the ending.
Accolades are undoubtedly addressed to Jessica Chastain who remarkably became an ambitious, brilliant, and persistent CIA agent. She was obsessed with Osama Bin Laden; it’s like Bin Laden is her personal enemy, not her country’s enemy. I could see a good character development of Maya, starting from her seemingly didn’t bear seeing the other CIA agents torture a detainee who kept silent while being interviewed, until how could she bravely shouted to her boss who didn’t seriously take her brilliant idea. The scene when she answered the CIA director, “I’m the motherf*cker who found this place, sir!” aloud shows that she was a girl who can not be underestimated. Her Golden Globe award, which she received some hours ago, is an undeniable proof, and I think it will be a tight competition between her and Jennifer Lawrence to win the Best Actress in next month’s Oscar. Mark Boal, the screenwriter of “Zero Dark Thirty”, is able to transfer the USA’s big ambition to catch and execute Osama Bin Laden into the soul of a young, pretty CIA agent named Maya, and Jessica Chastain was more than just capable of manifesting it. It’s very regretful that Rooney Mara, who got the chance of being cast to play Maya, had to drop out from the role, for it will be a good chance of her getting more acclaims, although I doubt that she could portray Maya as perfect as Jessica did.
Finally, if you like films with a historical (or political) true events background, you will love “Zero Dark Thirty”. Despite of the controversy, it shows a very detailed description that will give us more than just an outlook of the real event. It seems heavy and hard just for being an entertainment, but I think “Zero Dark Thirty” is not an entertainment at all: it’s a historical testimonial of the biggest manhunt in history
▲ Detailed reconstruction of real event, Jessica Chastain
▼ Heavy, non-simplified complex plot, plain in the beginning
ZERO DARK THIRTY | COUNTRY USA YEAR 2012 RATING Rated R for strong violence including brutal disturbing images, and for language RUNTIME 157 min GENRE Action, Drama, History CAST Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Ehle, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler WRITER Mark Boal DIRECTOR Kathryn Bigelow IMDB RATING 7.7/10 METACRITIC 95/100 (Universal Acclaim) ROTTEN TOMATOES 93% (Certified Fresh) MORE INFO