Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

Lowdown: The long story of locating and killing Bin Laden.
It didn’t take Hollywood long to tell us its version of the story of Bin Laden’s demise, did it? At least they compensated by letting the story be told through the work of director Kathryn Bigelow, who showed us how well she can tell a military drama through The Hurt Locker.
Claiming to be based on the testimonies of the actual people involved in the affair (on the American side, I assume), Zero Dark Thirty spans around a decade as it tells us the story of the group of people whose job it was to get Bin Laden ever since 11 September 2001. In particular our story revolves around Maya (Jessica Chastain), the CIA agent who relocated to Pakistan to support the cause and whose perseverance was the key to finishing off Bin Laden.
The story is told in three very distinct acts. The first revolves mostly around the torturing of Al Qaeda operatives in order to acquire for relevant information. The second puts our torturing “heroes” in the doldrums as terrorist attacks hit back at the world and at them directly and as they are forced to follow incredibly thin lines of investigation in their quest for the elusive Bin Laden. Obviously, the third act puts us in the midst of the American commando unit that raided the house Bin Laden was staying at.
Assuming Zero Dark Thirty is generally reliable, it does answer some interesting questions. For example, it does provide me with an answer to the question I was curious about from the moment I heard of Bin Laden’s death: why didn’t the Americans capture him? I won’t bloop too much of the movie, but it is clear the very Call of Duty - Modern Warfare like raid team was not geared for capture.
More to the point, Zero Dark Thirty is going to be remembered for one thing and one thing only. It is going to be remembered for its depiction of torture, torture performed by the people alleged to be the “good guys” fighting for our side. Indeed, the only thing I have heard about Zero Dark Thirty before watching it was to do with the controversy of it glorifying torture. On the other hand I have read reviews, such as this one from Widescreen Review, talking about Maya & Co using glorifying language yet avoiding any mentioning of the actions they took on their way:
living historical story of an elite team of intelligence operatives who… devoted themselves to a single goal
I disagree with both approaches. I disagree with the glorification for the simple reason I think those doing the torturing (and the administration people behind that provide the necessary support) are no better than those crashing buildings using airplanes; both deserve to go to court, and by my book both deserve similar verdicts if found guilty. I also disagree with the claim Bigelow glorifies torture, though: sure, her film shows that torture can deliver results, but assuming that claim is correct and not added as a pat on America’s back then I actually have to commend Bigelow for her very matter of fact story delivery. After you watch Zero Dark Thirty you will not be able to deny the cruelty involved in the torturing; it is up to you to decide what you want to do with these images that will now remain stuck in your head. Me, I could not avoid thinking of the innocent people caught in this circle of violence, from the innocent people at New York, London and Mumbai to David Hicks.
Overall: Long, thorough and memorable. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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