A Decade-Long Hunt For Justice
Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando
Opening with haunting audio of victims trapped in the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001, Zero Dark Thirty chronicles the ten-year hunt for Osama bin Laden and offers a chilling portrayal of the cost at which this pursuit was achieved.
Jessica Chastain plays a C.I.A. officer named Maya, a woman so determined to find bin Laden that all we come to know about her is her drive to find him. Whether or not Maya is based on a specific person, or several, remains to be seen, but Zero Dark Thirty itself should be remembered as perhaps the closest retelling of the last ten years that we will ever see.
There have, of course, been some controversies over the nature of torture depicted in the film, which unfortunately take away from Zero Dark Thirty's importance. There have not been any post-9/11 films that have so perfectly captured the tone of what America was feeling for so many years. There was anger, confusion, dread, frustration, sadness and above all, a need for answers. Whether or not America used torture to gain intelligence regarding bin Laden's location is not the point of Zero Dark Thirty; it's one aspect of the film that leaves opinion up to the viewer. This is a film about the pursuit of justice and the sacrifices people like Maya and other characters made in order to get it.
The director, Kathryn Bigelow, and writer, Mark Boal, whose previous collaboration The Hurt Locker won best picture in 2009, know how to tell stories about terrorism and the realities of living in the current political climate that we do. When retelling a story, there are always liberties one takes, especially in film, which seems lost on those who criticize Zero Dark Thirty as 'un-American'. Think of this film less as strictly fact (though, there are many facts that are accurate) and more as a commentary about American attitudes.
Maya is the embodiment of those attitudes. She's meant to be the mirror with which we look at ourselves. We wanted answers; we wanted bin Laden. It's not spoiling anything to say that by the end of the movie, we get him, but what we're left with is not a dead body to gawk at, but instead an image of Maya wondering, "What now?" You're likely to feel the same way by the time the credits roll.
Zero Dark Thirty is currently in wide release.