Wednesday, January 16, 2013

ZERO DARK THIRTY

Jessica Chastain,  Jason Clarke,
Kyle Chandler, Mark Strong

"The Greatest Manhunt in History"

Cinema 4, Trinoma Mall




This riveting story about the manhunt for Bin Laden opens with a blank screen then you hear the actual audio tapes from people who were in the WTC Towers on September 11, 2001. Quite a chilling effect, as for a few seconds we are reminded of that harrowing moment. 

Next scene takes us to a remote location and our senses are jarred with graphic scenes of torture.  The main tormentor, a CIA operative called Dan is trying to extract information from a detainee using several EITs (Enhanced Interrogation Techniques) like waterboarding, white noise, sleep deprivation, humiliation.

Dan tells Maya (Jessica Chastain), a newly assigned CIA agent "It's not always this intense".  She replies she is fine although she is visibly shaken.  She is tougher than she lets on as her reputation as 'a killer' does prove later on in the film just how driven and dead set she is in her relentless pursuit.

The story is seen through Maya's point of view. The character is based on a real CIA agent whose identity has never been divulged. When the director Kathryn Bigelow was interviewed on several talk shows, she refused to volunteer any information on her source.  The same is true for Maya -  no back story on whether she is married or where she is from.  It is probably for the best as it kept the viewers focused on the manhunt and not on the personal life of the agents involved.

The plot spans through 10 years of covert operations in remote parts of the globe to the posh offices of the CIA HQ in Washington. Every minute details from phone calls, emails to chat room chatter is carefully scrutinized using the best communication technology.  As well as any information gained 'illegally' through questionable means.  

I disagree that "Zero Dark Thirty" glorified torture. The disturbing scenes were authentically portrayed and quite graphic.   Yet, the film clearly points out that the end doesn't necessarily justify the means as acts of terrorism still prevailed like the bombing of a bus in London as well as the attack on the Marriot Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan - despite the use of torture to obtain information.

It is  a long movie but there were no dull moments.  When the well planned raid on Bin Laden's hideout finally does happen, the film shifts up a gear in the last 30 minutes.  Mostly shot in the dark without any music added for dramatic effect, the tense shoot-outs viewed through infra-red goggles kept me on the edge of my seat.

"Zero Dark Thirty" is the military term that refers to 30 minutes past midnight. The time the raid on that compound in Pakistan began.  A well executed film that seeks to pay tribute to the men and women who risk their lives to make our world a safer place to live in.

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