February 4, 2013

Road To The Oscars – Movie Review: Zero Dark Thirty

Over the next few weeks, I will be reviewing all the movies nominated for Best Picture at the upcoming 2013 Academy Awards ceremony on February 24, 2013; ultimately leading to my predictions on which film will win this prestigious award.

Zero Dark Thirty has been nominated for five Academy Awards and four Golden Globes, of which Jessica Chastain won for best actress, and director, Kathryn Bigelow, received the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association’s award for best director.

Zero Dark Thirty is an enthralling and riveting film from beginning to end. The film begins with audio from the 911 calls made from the World Trade Center on that horrific day in history. With this being the opening soundtrack, rather than some glorious orchestral score paired with the actual subject matter of the movie, this film feels very real.

The directing style of Kathryn Bigelow is artistic brilliance. This, paralleled by the performances of Jessica Chastain and Jason Clarke, who portray the characters Maya and Dan, make this a truly chilling movie that is filled with an intense aura and unapologetic story telling.

Since the very first mentioning of its release, this movie has been surrounded by controversy, which is one of the reasons I looked forward to watching it. Not because of the controversial moments in the movie itself, but because of the varied translations of meaning of the movie. Some critics, politicians and pundits have said that this movie was pro-torture or in support of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT) and essentially excused the Bush administration. While other critics, politicians and pundits said that this movie was pro-Obama and anti-EIT.

How could this be?

A single movie could not be both against something and in support of it. However, once I watched the film, I figured it out, so no need to stress over this quandary. It’s not that this movie is “pro” or “anti” EIT. The movie simply tells the story. So, if you support EIT going in, there is a strong chance you will support it coming out, and vice-versa. This is one of the many components of the film that makes it so good. As a viewer, this movie shouldn’t be about whether it aligns with your beliefs or against your beliefs. It is no different than watching All the Presidents Men. Viewing this movie should be that of simply watching the story as it unfolds.

This film doesn’t try to sway a viewer on a political belief anymore than this article does. It simply tries to tell a story of the events that led to the killing of Bin Laden.

Bigelow has openly stated that she is against EIT, but as she declared to Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report, that if she didn’t include the EIT scenes and the information it gathered, she would have been “whitewashing history.” Many criticized her film because they said that EIT had nothing to do with successfully capturing Bin Laden as it is portrayed in the film. The film doesn’t state that EIT was the only way the CIA gathered intelligence on finding the compound where Bin Laden was; however that is was one of the many techniques used to gather the information. Former Director of the CIA and current United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey all agree that EIT was an intricate part in gathering the information to find Bin Laden. It’s not that I fully trust what the government tells me to always be true; it’s that I accept the use of EIT due to the fact that it seems to be the consensus by anyone remotely close to the situation, regardless of their political affiliation.

The movie primarily focuses on the other tactics that were used and the brilliant sleuthing that it took to accomplish the mission. The brilliant portrayal of Maya along with other characters shows us what a person would be like if they allowed themselves to become consumed with finding Bin Laden, or anyone for that matter. No social life, no hobbies, no family; just spending every day working on finding Bin Laden with complete and total dedication. The ending scene is very chilling (spoiler alert) when Maya receives the news of the killing of Bin Laden, she doesn’t jump for joy, or hug her peers, she shutters a chill. The character is as disturbed at the ending of this mission as she was when she began her mission ten years prior.

At the end of the day, we need to watch this movie the way we watch every movie, with the realization that it’s a movie. If one does this, then they will enjoy the picture and the telling of the story, realizing that no movie can completely portray events with 100 percent accuracy. If a viewer watches this movie to establish an opinion on EIT or to prove it supports their opinion, they should just watch their favorite political pundit on whatever 24-hour news outlet they choose.

Image Credit: Annapurna Pictures

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