Making a film about one of contemporary history’s greatest stories can be a two-edged sword: can the director get and give in equal measure? Can the filmmaker’s power match the enormity of the story and its impact on the world?
All indications are that director Kathryn Bigelow has what it takes to tell the story of what has been described as the “greatest manhunt in history” — the hunt for, and subsequent killing of, Osama Bin Laden, once the world’s most wanted man.
Coming in straight from the tough and spare Hurt Locker, the Oscar-winning director has crafted a taut film told with a precision and cold-eyed gaze worthy of the historic military operation.
The movie has inevitably run into controversies, mainly for its “morally complicated” stance and what is seen by some as “endorsement of torture” in its opening scenes. The scenes are said to be graphic, detailing the various acts of torture carried out on the prisoner who eventually reveals key information about Bin Laden’s secret courier. That is the vital bit of information that finally leads the hunters to the man himself in his Abbottabad hideout in Pakistan. (Most of those final scenes were, incidentally, shot in Chandigarh since Pakistan was obviously not an option.)
While the torture scenes have sparked controversy, there seems to be a near-consensus on Jessica Chastain, who leads the cast as Maya, a CIA operative who is obsessed with capturing Osama and leads a decade-long chase for him. With a Golden Globe under her belt, she has Oscar predictions swirling around her. If you remember The Help, Chastain put in an achingly vulnerable performance as Celia Foote, the beautiful mistress who is considered white trash by the genteel brigade.
Zero Dark Thirty is bound to evoke dramatically varied reactions depending on which segment of the geo-political spectrum you happen to be parked. In life, death and legend, Osama bin Laden is a deeply divisive figure. But if you would like to see a film about the greatest manhunt in history, Zero Dark Thirty would be it.
Oh yes, before you think we forgot, ‘zero dark thirty’ is a US military term for 30 minutes after midnight, when the US Special Forces team began the operation at Abbotabad in Pakistan. Osama is believed to have been killed around 1.00 am on May 2, 2011.
Bottomline: A film about the greatest manhunt in history.
Zero Dark Thirty
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Releases: February 15, 2013