'ZDT' wows in spite of spoiled ending
I don't think I will spoil the plot for anyone when I say Bin Laden dies at the end. Everybody knows this, and since Quentin Tarantino is not in any way affiliated with the production of this movie there was no reason for me to expect anything else. I was still in suspense, however. I thought I knew how it all happened, but I was not aware of one woman's decade-long search for Bin Laden and the toll it took on her. Based on facts, real people and real events, "Zero Dark Thirty" is sort of a more interesting version of a documentary.
"Zero Dark Thirty" is code for half past midnight, which is when Bin Laden was killed. I find that the one fault of this film is that it didn't take the one second that would have been needed to clarify the movie title. Mya (Jessica Chastain) is recruited out of high school and dives right into torture, bombings and everything that comes with being an American spy. She does not let go of her hunch and continues to look into it even when nobody will help her. Everybody tells her that she is wrong. We would too if we didn't know the ending because all the facts contradict her. Mya is never discouraged and sees it through to the end.
Mya is really the only person we ever see. At first everyone is helping her, but eventually they move on as the mission becomes impossible. Most characters come and go and are never developed or properly introduced, but we are seeing it from Mya's point of view and this is Mya's life. She has no friends, no family and no love life. She does nothing but pursue Bin Laden. Chastain does not give many long monologues or emotional speeches that we tend to associate with Oscar-worthy performances, but she has truly given one of the best of the year. Mya is so well developed, and most of that is because of what Chastain brings to the table with the way she walks, talks, acts and carries herself. She may not say many words at first, but we quickly figure out who she is. Chastain does not overact or rely on words, but simply plays her character.
It is appalling that Kathryn Bigalow is not nominated for Best Director. I don't know where this was filmed, but it all looked and felt so real. The actors, the settings and everything were so well-directed and so well-done that it is hard to believe that any of it did not really happen. Unlike a movie like "Lincoln," which has been heavily dramatized, I could not even imagine what did and did not happen differently. Surely that should be enough to earn her a nomination.
There has been controversy over the torture scenes. The film takes no stand on the subject of the morality of torture, but rather shows that it happened as it was accounted to the writer. It is not the story of how torture worked, as it has been accused of. Rather, it is the story of the one woman surrounded by men who was willing to play by their rules, but also played by her own which eventually led her to success in the end. The film shows us what this past decade has been like in the Middle East for those working there. We see the constant danger, the paranoia, everything that comes with the job and the strength required to endure. This is a film that may only be made, viewed and enjoyed impartially with regards to morality by Americans, but is one that only Americans need to do so.
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