For their follow-up to the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal planned on making a film about the decade-long, futile search for Osama Bin Laden. As they were preparing to make that film, though, Bin Laden was killed by American soldiers in Pakistan.
Time for a course correction.
Zero Dark Thirty, the film that came about after the shift in ending to the story, follows a fictional figure who nevertheless represents an actual member of the CIA who spent a decade looking for Bin Laden. That figure in the film, Maya, played to perfection by Jessica Chastain, stands out amidst groups of men for her single-minded determination to find the terrorist.
Before Zero Dark Thirty’s release, Ben Affleck’s Argo cornered the market this season for intense adaptation of a real-life story. Zero Dark Thirty makes Argo feel like child’s play. From a haunting opening scene, if you can call it that, Zero Dark Thirty is roughly two hours of build-up to a breathtaking final half hour.
The film has stoked some heated conversation over its depiction of torture. To be fair, the film does depict torture in some intense ways. From my observation, though, a direct connection between torture and viable information isn’t present. And let’s be clear – if you don’t think waterboarding is torture, seeing it reenacted in the film should make you rethink that position.
With Zero Dark Thirty, Bigelow and Boal have upped the intensity of their last collaboration, and like The Hurt Locker, this film is easily one of the best of the year.