The second half is more engrossing than the first half. Zero Dark Thirty spends lots of time with terse conversations, and these words at a “black” site: “Every time you lie, I hurt you.” Honest truth wins the Taliban captives alleviation and rewards, but it’s amazing how much they’re willing to suffer before supplying the CIA with answers. I was glad that this kind of content diminishes for a more detective-like investigation for Osama Bin Laden in the second half. Jessica Chastain plays the workaholic CIA analyst Maya, who works on threading the intel for a decade to find Osama Bin Laden that was mostly based on a hunch (well how else does one justify a career without claiming achievement after ten years on the job?) Kathryn Bigelow directs her first film since winning the Oscar for “The Hurt Locker.” Mark Boal, her collaborator, is once again the sole screenwriter.
I don’t believe there are many great intellectual revelations to be made here, but I do appreciate Bigelow neatly putting the pieces together for us. The torture scenes are hard to take, but not horribly grueling (not in comparison after seeing last year’s “The Devil’s Double”). I applaud Bigelow for dramatizing these scenes, because it breaks down hypocrisy of what goes on in the Middle East off the politically correct soil of our homeland. Still, am I the only one who wonders, what happened to these tortured prisoners after the CIA was done interrogating them? The screenplay disposes them and never refers to them again. And while the torture is shown, there is a limitation to how much is gained for the viewer intellectually from watching it transpire.
Jason Clarke (“Lawless”) gets his best role to date as a senior analyst and interrogator, Kyle Chandler (“King Kong”) is the sturdy but risk-free Islamabad Station Chief, while Joel Edgerton (“Warrior”) naturally looks the part of Navy SEALs squad team leader. But this is a movie that really isn’t about the actors. Even the Chastain part is written so sketchy, that if you want character depth, you have to read between the lines to find it. To prove herself in a man’s world, she doggedly investigated for ten years while surrendering anything resembling a social life. The final words and reaction spoken in the final scene ponder this.
I could discuss much of the activity that goes on. But basically, much office work is dramatized, the CIA gets their hands dirty with turncoats in Pakistan, and the evolution of procedure shifts after change of American presidents. Then the movie tilts in on a specific compound harboring three suspicious families, and possibly Osama. Cue the sensational action sequence, ala, the storming of the compound. I do praise Bigelow for making the raid a tad clumsy. And I suppose the night vision goggles with a green lens, is a necessary visual devise in this case.
Half past midnight, on May 2, 2011 they shot someone through a door opening. The SEALs weren’t even sure if it was Osama. This climactic takedown, the movie’s attitude thereof, suggests bi-partisan politics.
157 Minutes. Rated R.
HISTORICAL DRAMA / MIDDLE EAST POLITICS / SATURDAY NIGHT ROUSER