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Tuesday 16 Jul 2024

Dark Zero Thirty
Jennifer Ramirez

Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, of "Hurt Locker," followup tells the story of the hunt for Osama bin Laden and stars Jessica Chastain and Jason Clarke.

After weeks of anticipation, Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty," a step-by-step about the hunt for and killing of Osama Bin Laden, screened for critics and Oscar watchers in New York and Los Angeles on Sunday night. The early words? Powerful, thoughtful, skeptical, academic and extreme.

"Zero Dark Thirty" begins with a black screen and audio from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The phone call, placed by a female worker to a 911 operator, is bone-chilling, and the perfect way to remind us of how America felt on that awful day. The film then leaps ahead a few years  and we meet Maya during her first CIA interrogation.

In a “black site” at an undisclosed location, a CIA officer is interrogating a man suspected of having information on the courier of Osama bin Laden

The suspect, Ammar, portrayed by Reda Kateb, believes he can withstand the waterboarding, the dog collar, the sleep and food deprivation, the heavy metal music  that hammers his warehouse cell 24 hours a day; he strongly asserts that “jihad will go on for a hundred years.” We experience the deadly outrages of a 2004 attack in Saudi Arabia, the 2005 bus and tube bombing in London, the 2008 attack on the Karachi Marriott and, the subsequent year, a surprising breach at a secured CIA base in Afghanistan.

The 9/11 attacks immediately created a new world disorder, transforming the face of the enemy from cranky tyrants to a stateless ascetic with the dream of crippling infidel America. Al-Qaeda’s coup also rendered the old book of counterintelligence ethics obsolete. Bribes and blackmail were still allowed, but no gentlemen or ladies needed enlist in the war on terror.

The canvas of "Zero Dark Thirty" is necessarily wide-ranging. An entire decade passes between the 9/11 attacks (wisely represented solely by emotional audio recordings on a black screen) and the raid in Pakistan. Characters float in and out as do techniques and methods. Rules of engagement change after the Abu Ghraib scandal, as does the primary focus of our intelligence operatives. The task shifts from finding Osama bin Laden to “preventing the next attack,” yet through Chastain’s character keeps her eyes on what is ultimately dubbed the “jackpot.”

The Zero Dark Thirty supporting cast is too long and impressive not to mention. Actors like Jason Clarke, Chris Pratt, Kyle Chandler, Édgar Ramírez, Joel Edgerton, Mark Duplass, Frank Grillo and James Gandolfini all knock their roles out of the park, regardless if their part is big or small. They give Maya different points of view to play off. Eventually, this is a one-woman show. Chastain holds her own and then some.

Even though it runs more than 2 1/2 hours, "Zero Dark Thirty" is so pared to necessities that even politics are taken out,  there's basically no Bush or Cheney, no Iraq War, no Obama proclaiming the success of the May 2, 2011, raid on bin Laden's in-plain-sight Pakistani compound. Similarly absent is any personal life for the single-minded heroine; when it's advised at one point that she may have a fling, she colorfully responds that she's not a girl who does that sort of thing.

In fact, one of the bigger bombshells of this film, if it is to be believed, is how right up until the bullets fly we had no idea if we had our target or were just murdering civilians. "Zero Dark Thirty" doesn’t sugarcoat this, or the fact that parents were gunned down in front of their kids and left to “bleed out.” The degree  you find Seal Team Six to be heroes is left completely to the viewer; there are no Michael Bay slo-mo walks under waving flags here.

"Zero Dark Thirty" has a couple of small problems but is unbelievably intense and instantly memorable overall. Yes, it’s more step-wise than other films of its genre, but then again, that’s how it happened and it’s a true story that deserved and to be told. All real complexity is right there in the main character.

Jennifer Ramirez, known as Jenny, has reviewed and edited for 5+ years. Originally from Toronto, she grew up performing and competing in rhythmic gymnastics. Jenny enjoys reviewing movies, books and music albums. She describes herself as funny and righteous, with a 'go that extra mile' attitude. Her philosophy is quite simple: try to live life to the fullest Jenny writes that hr passion is books. She reads and reviews current and back-list literary fiction, crime fiction, thrillers, occasionally science fiction, and narrative nonfiction. She also loves music. She's a huge fan of The Maine and All Time Low! Joy is her favorite word and creativity is something she can't live without.

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