Saturday, January 26, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

Seal Team Six

Let's get a key sore point out of the way. There are those who take offense and have genuine concern about the torture scenes in the film, which had actually opened the movie, and have a few more going in various interrogation scenes given threats, and veiled ones, aimed at enemy combatants in order to try and elicit useful information from them. I suppose it is tactically naive to deny that torture, in its various forms, and as loosely used a term, does not exist. Otherwise there would be no need for black sites in locations of allies who condone such a practice, and frankly speaking, depravity is something quite expectedly used as a tool, because humans are susceptible to using any method to force or coerce co-operation. It's hypocritical to deny the propensity of evil within us.

After having run around with the big boys and their various operations in The Hurt Locker, director Kathryn Bigelow now opts for another aspect in the theatre of war, and that's of the intelligence community, working behind the scenes to obtain credible information, where content is truly king. It took almost a decade to hunt down what would be the most elusive man on the planet at the time, with his closed network of associates and trusted inner circle, to shield him from everything that technology can be used to track him down. It is this hunt, based on gut, instinct and sheer hard work, that forms the basis of interest in a film like this, and worked as a capture of key milestones that had gone to this monumental effort.

And for a film spanning a decade, Mark Boal's story managed to weave in the various iconic terrorist incidents that had taken the world by storm, starting with September 11 recapped without visuals, then the recreation of others such as the London bombings that followed, the attacks in camps, and the blowing up of the Marriott hotel in Pakistan, amongst others. Perhaps the bit of a stretch would be to weave Jessica Chastain's lead character of Maya into some of them, because it's almost a statistical stretch to have someone at the right place at the right time, if not to lend an almost personal objective to Langley's mission to get their man.

For characterization, we can look no further than Maya, whose hard nosed determination we see being developed from the days of being a rookie where we start, to a seasoned veteran in the field unwilling to make compromises, and almost always demanding her ways because as part of the rank and file, she's there to see through changes, rather than to be air-dropped into the ivory tower. Politics also comes into the fray, and just like The Hurt Locker, Bigelow throws on some uncredited roles played by famous faces, that you'd be looking forward to just about who she'd throw on next.

But it is Maya's story and development that makes Zero Dark Thirty compelling to follow, one who is void of emotion, with very little personal life, deliberate in clue us in on her immense dedication to the cause and mission. Not only as the noose around Bin Laden and his hideout get closer, but to observe Maya's change as an intelligence analyst in a world where it's black versus black, with real and present danger set amongst them even though they're in office most of the time, especially when complacency sets in, and enemies use that as leverage when games are played against each other.

Action junkies will take heart at the key action sequence in the film, which is that full scale assault on a rather conspicuous three storey building by the Seal Team Six. It is presented in almost real time, lending some authenticity to its version of the event, although not without its own controversy since nobody can vouch for accuracy given the cloak of silence surrounding this operation. So it's pretty much left to the filmmakers' discretion in how it all went down. Those looking for more development behind the Seal Team Six preparation can perhaps view Code Name: Geronimo, which provided that army preparation that's missing in Zero Dark Thiry, offering a different take as well on the final assault, something that this one is clearly steering clear from in order not to distract from its cat and mouse focus amongst the think tank involvement.

Still, Zero Dark Thirty proved to be immensely engaging and gripping as it unfolds, even if artistic license got liberally applied to tell this tale of a determined manhunt in recent history. A definite recommend!

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