Ah, nothing like a bullet to the face of Osama Bin Laden to scream “Merica!” in cinema. While the concept seems like a glorifying recruitment video, “Zero Dark Thirty” is rather a realistic spy thriller.
Starting with chilling audio from emergency phone calls on 9/11, the obvious stage is set for the decade long chase of the worlds most infamous criminal. The bureaucracy of intelligence and defense that was given steroids of funding after 9/11 was hard at work for the decade taking in information and working against the clock to uncover the various terrorist plots that occurred after 9/11. A lot of that work is shown as mind numbing and almost impossibly daunting, as I’m sure such ghost chases are.
There was a lot of controversy that the movie might have portrayed torture as essential to locating the Abottobad compound holding Bin Laden, but I didn’t quite get that vibe. Torture was shown in brutal detail to give a true understanding to the audience, and I think rather than imply torture was needed, the information obtained was shown to be sporadic and unreliable. The big find in intelligence was simply sorting through the mountain of information we had already collected.
Since the film was based on a lot of classified information, I think beyond the factual events that built up quite a bit of tension, some of the dialogue might have been a little cliché with the main character Maya because there aren’t CIA transcripts giving a complete play by-play of what actually happened. While I’m sure she was a total badass, I doubt the real life character said “I’m gonna kill Osama Bin Laden” in some sort of vendetta for her lost colleague.
The hunt for Bin Laden and the covert op on the compound was seemingly suited for a movie drama. The operation had numerous failures like the helicopter crash. It would seem overly dramatic, but as it is based on a true story, its brilliant insight into just how risky the operation was and what a miracle it was successful in the end. Had the raid gone horribly wrong, President Obama and his team would have committed political suicide having launched an attack into friendly Pakistani soil on a sketchy report. But it worked! And suddenly its a smashing success that propelled Obama into a second term.
“Zero Dark Thirty” is a lot like “Argo”. You know the story and the ending, but the movie is there to provide the nuts and bolts on how it happened and the people who made it possible. But I think this film is better than “Argo”, with a more captivating story not as tied to the end result as “Argo” was. The shadowy world of the intelligence community needs light from the public eye from time to time on the great accomplishments that took billions of dollars in the making simply to prove that the man power and money hasn’t gone to waste, and we can actually deliver on the objectives declare.
“Zero Dark Thirty” is a great film, dashed with humor where appropriate while giving a tense unparalleled story still close to the chest of the CIA. A little long, but with an expectedly satisfying climax.
I give it a 9.3/10