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Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Updated on January 28, 2013

A Moral Question for those brave enough to answer...

Do you think it's right for the US government to use torture tactics when interrogating terrorist prisoners?

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Zero Dark Thirty

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Writer: Mark Boal

Cast: Jason Clarke, Reda Kateb, Jessica Chastain, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Ehle, Harold Perrineau, Jeremy Strong, J.J. Kandel, Wahab Sheikh, Alexander Karim, Nabil Elouahabi, Aymen Hamdouchi, Simon Abkarian, Ali Marhyar, Parker Sawyers

Synopsis: A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May 2011.

MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong violence including brutal disturbing images, and for language

Osama Bin Laden: How did they get him?

Arguably one of the most controversial films of all time

Since the tragedy of 9/11, America has never been the same again. Many of our rights have been taken, in order to increase security for the nation. The deficit is higher than it ever has been before, and the the alleged "War on Terror" doesn't seem to be coming to an end anytime soon. Whether you were affected directly by 9/11 or not, there's no debating that we all have felt it's impact on some level; one way or the other.

Indeed, these are dark times we live in, as the days of war are no longer glorified through various movies these days. No, wars are harsh, and cruel. As "Zero Dark Thirty" is quick to point out, sometimes in order to seek vengeance upon those that prey on the innocent, you have to be willing to get your hands dirty.

Is it morally sound that our government openly lies to the people saying how they disapprove torture methods, even though that's not the case? Yet even more perplexing, is it even okay for the government to secretly allow our own CIA to torture terrorist prisoners, in order to achieve information? Does the end truly justify the means? Or perhaps, does it mean that these sort of hypocrisies make us no different than the terrorist we'd all wanted to see be brought to justice, to begin with?

Or maybe it could mean that the terrorist prisoners are getting exactly what they deserve? Poetic justice perhaps? I honestly can't say, as it would depend on who you ask. After all, I'm not here to discuss my assessments on these controversial issues, as I'm here to merely review a film based on the events that led up to Osama Bin Laden's death. Nothing more or less.

Before I begin my review, I'd like to point out that I have nothing but utmost respect for our military, and CIA operatives that work hard everyday to protect us. As for the events that happened post 9/11 that led up to Osama Bin Laden's alleged assassination, I also want to point out that any criticism that I cite during this review is NOT a refection of my thoughts on Osama Bin Laden, nor about the government's ways of dealing with terrorists. As I pointed out earlier, my business is merely to write a review of "Zero Dark Thirty", so please keep that in mind. As for those that are still mourning a severe loss of a loved one during the horrific 9/11 tragedy, I offer my sincerest condolences to you all. May the people that lost their lives during such a tragedy be at peace now, as I'm sure they'll be deeply missed.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, lets move on with the review. As some readers may know, the film has garnered a lot of controversy with it's pro-torture theme throughout the movie. Sure, you don't have to agree with it, but this is how the film plays out. As we watch "Zero Dark Thirty", it portrays torture, as something of a necessary evil that's needed to be done to get information.

The screenwriter, Mark Boal, doesn't bother easing the audience into the film either, with it's pro-torture theme, as we're thrown right into it immediately once the movie starts. The very first scene, it depicts a terrorist that resists questioning, as a CIA agent says to him, "If you lie to me, I hurt you. If you don't tell me what I need to know, then I hurt you.." From there, we see a graphic display of the CIA agent torturing the terrorist for information. Sure, he begs our main protagonist Maya (Jessica Chastain) for help, as she watches her CIA partner go to work on him. However, there is no help for this terrorist, as she replies coldly, "You can help yourself by being truthful."

The movie itself doesn't have much of a plot to speak of, as the basic premise is that Maya and the CIA's only concern is to find and capture terrorists; preferably Osama Bin Laden. The film depicts Maya as a bit of a workaholic, and determined young woman that's willing to do whatever it takes to track down Osama Bin Laden, by any means necessary.

Although the film tries to tie together some personal connections with her character, but the personal connections are never really that well written, due to the fact that Maya's personality is so fixated on finding Osama Bin Laden that we really don't know much else about her character. In the film, they do explain how Maya was recruited straight out of high school, but other that, we know next to nothing about her character. Nothing to make the audience emotionally invested into her as an individual, nor does the film ever bother to delve into that.

But then again, this movie isn't about Maya, nor her personal mission to find Osama Bin Laden, so the Navy Seals can take him out. No, this is a movie merely depicting the events that led up to the events of Osama's assassination by the Navy Seals.

On that note, it succeeds. From the very beginning, the CIA's mission is to find and kill Osama Bin Laden. Not take him in for questioning, or have him put on trial. No, their mission is to find him, and have him killed. Period. The mission is made perfectly clear in this film, and the cinematography is so authentic that you'd swear you were watching a documentary; rather than a movie.

As for Jessica Chastain's performance, I have to say that I was pleasantly impressed by it. Although I doubt she'll win the Oscar for "Best Actress", it was still a very nice performance; given the limited range the script allowed her to work with for the character.

As for the rest of the film, I'm not exactly sure if I'd recommend this movie to anyone unless they had an open mind going into it. After all, many of the themes about this film can be bit controversial at times, and since it involves such a touchy subject matter, it's hard to say who would enjoy this film. However, if you're one of those rare few that have an open mind when it comes to movies, then you might find it interesting at a rating of three out of four.

(Warning: Spoiler Alert in these last two paragraphs) Would I dare say that "Zero Dark Thirty" is the best film of 2012? Don't be absurd. However, I would argue that it's one of the more interesting ones out there. Another interesting question this film brings up is the film's final line asking us, "Where do we go from here?" Osama Bin Laden is allegedly dead, so where do we go from here? The film ends on that note, with an open ended scenario. Osama Bin Laden is killed by our Navy Seals, but nobody is cheering. Nobody is saying, "We finally nailed the b****!" Nothing.

Just an empty silence, as Maya enters the cargo plane sent out specifically for her. The pilot asks her where does she want to go from here, and she looks away unable to answer. We see a small tear from her eye, which is completely out of character for her. And from there, the film ends on an open note. Never answering where Maya goes from there, as catching Osama Bin Laden was her primarily focus from day one; upon joining the CIA. Now that he's dead allegedly, then where does she go from here? Or better yet, where do we go from here?


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