Movie Review : Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Posted: March 27, 2013 in Drama
Tags: ,

zero dark thirty

Maya (Jessica Chastain) is a CIA agent who has been working on finding Osama Bin Laden since 9/11/2001. Since the attack on the Twin Towers, the CIA has been given expanded powers to extract information from detainees, including stress positions, sleep deprivation, loud music, and waterboarding.   Maya’s colleague Dan (Jason Clarke) seems to enjoy the torture of one detainee in particular.  The detainee’s name is Ammar  (Reda Kateb) and the CIA hopes that Ammar will eventually give them the name of Bin Laden’s main courier, Abu Ahmad. (Tushaar Mehra)  It takes seven years from when they get the tip on Bin Laden’s courier and, when they can track that courier to Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  The President then sends in Seal Team Six to raid the compound and the world found out what happened next, Osama Bin Laden was killed.

This is a difficult movie to watch.  I didn’t mind seeing the scenes of torture as much as I thought I would, because it was all known information, but there is a difference between reading an account of torture and seeing it on a big screen.  It is quite startling to see it.  Seeing these scenes might incite some anger when this movie shown around the world.  What I really did mind is the conclusion that this movie draws, that harsh interrogation is an effective means to extract information.  It is not.  FBI interrogator Ali Soufan, who interrogated Abu Zubaydah says he was able to extract much more information when he treated Zubaydah humanely. Colleen Rowley, another FBI agent says torture doesn’t work, that the goal in an interrogation is to establish a good relationship with the person being interrogated, that is called the Reid School of Interrogation.  But the movie ignores this empirical evidence and seems to revel in the myth that torture works, and since this is a movie, people might see this dramatization, this movie and accept it as truth, and that is dangerous.

I blame Mark Boal the writer of this movie for oversimplifying a really complex political and moral issue, and his excuse for this oversimplification, it’s a movie and he was using artistic license.  I’m sorry, but this explanation is not acceptable, when someone is giving the first big screen account of how the United States killed Osama Bin Laden, it better be accurate to a fault.

Jessica Chastain is not as good as I thought she would be in this film.  Since she essentially has to carry the film, I thought she would be a lot stronger in this role.  Despite a lot of buzz, I did not think she deserved an Oscar, and she lost to Jennifer Lawrence.

Is this movie worth seeing, I would say yes, if only for the Seal Team 6 footage, the last 45 minutes of this film is compelling viewing, and is well worth the price of a rental.

Zero Dark Thirty.  The end of a dark chapter in U.S. history.

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