Zero Dark Thirty

I finally got round to seeing one of the big Oscar contenders of the last Academy Awards – Zero Dark Thirty. This movie is director Katheryn Bigelow’s tribute to the “biggest manhunt in history’ (or American history). The film dramatizes the United States operation that found and killed Osama bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda. It was produced by Boal, Bigelow, and Megan Ellison. It stars Jessica Chastain ably supported by a large cast including Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, Jennifer Ehle, Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler, and Édgar Ramírez. It was independently financed by Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures.

The movie was nominated for 5 awards at the 85th Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actress (Chastain) and Best Original Screenplay and winning for Best Sound Editing. Before I continue I must say that as far as I understand, this is not an exact play of events but based on what the movie makers have gotten from parties involved – and I must say that it must be from various sources – and therefor is at best a fictional movie based on actual events. The main character Maya is based on, mainly one CIA agent but also on other women involved in the operation. She is a staunchly determined, completely one tracked minded and passionate about her job at hand – collecting solid intelligence and analyzing the data to find and apprehend Osama Bin Laden.  As the movie starts, the young agent initially is disturbed as she observes first hand the torture-investigation of a a detainee with suspected links to several of the 9/11 hijackers. This is the most difficult scene to watch – as the interrogator humiliates the detainee and subjects him to waterboarding. However later on, as she “matures” Maya interrogates Abu Faraj while her colleagues torture a man who has been getting message from Bin Laden & his courier Abu Ahmed.

During a span of five years, she survives the 2008 Islamabad Marriott Hotel bombing as well as being shot at in her car by armed men. Neither event detters her from her aim but she is told by her superior that now that she is on the “list” of American nationals to be killed, she has to go  back to the US. While waiting for an informant, Maya’s fellow officer and friend Jessica is killed in the 2009 Camp Chapman attack, when it turns out that the informant was a double agent has been armed with a suicide bomb belt that he detonates. When a Jordanian detainee claims the man previously identified as Abu Ahmed, from a photograph, is a man he personally buried in 2001, several CIA officers – Maya’s seniors – conclude the target who could be Abu Ahmed is long dead, and that they have searched a false trail for nine years. However Maya’s colleague researching Moroccan intelligence archives comes to Maya and suggests that Abu Ahmed is alive and that his brother, with whom he shares very similar features, was the one buried. Abu Ahmed is tracked while using his phone an driving in his vehicle & numerous CIA operatives are deployed to search for and identify him. They locate him in his vehicle and eventually track him to a large urban compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, near the Pakistan Military Academy.

The final third of the film is the actual operation after several months of surveillance, during which Maya gets very frustrated. The raid is approved and is executed on May 2, 2011. Although execution is complicated by one of the helicopters crashing, the SEALs kill a number of people within the compound, among them a man on the compound’s top floor who is revealed to be bin Laden. I may have to watch that scene again but the SEALs kill a couple of unarmed women as well but I guess that is something you have to expect. hey bring bin Laden’s body back to a U.S. base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, where Maya visually confirms the identity of the corpse. Maya is last seen boarding a military transport to return to the U.S. and sitting in its vast interior as its only passenger. The pilot asks her where she wants to go but she does not reply and instead begins to weep quietly.

To be honest, although I appreciate the film, I was also bored to tears for most of it. I do not usually like American war movies/military movies as such but I had hoped that this one would be more entertaining. Does Katheryn Bigelow only do war movies? And this is the second movie I’ve seen of Jessica Chastain and both are in search of a famed bad man. 7.5 and that is a grudging 7.5 outta 10!

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