Zero Dark Thirty

Generally speaking, one goes to the movies to be entertained, be that in the form of a tense political thrilled or fluffy popcorn fare.

Zero Dark Thirty is not an entertaining movie. But it is a very good movie and it is a movie well worth watching. In all likelihood, you will sit there are squirm at some of the action on the screen. You will be amazed that we ever actually caught Bin Landen since the evidence was circumstantial at best. And you’ll be relieved when the raid does go off successfully because there was basically no reason for it to have done so.

The big thing that keeps coming up is whether the movie glorifies torture or not. I’m not convinced that it does. The man who does it is shown to be burned out and affected by what he has done. The scenes are raw and difficult to watch – her discomfort is our discomfort. And most importantly, her insistence on following up this lead is born as much out of desperation and lack of any other leads as it is any certainty that the info was truly of value. If anything, the takeaway message here is that Bin Laden was caught out of a woman’s intuition and belief that it was true – the movie makes it very clear that pretty much everyone that wasn’t her thought we only had 60% chance of being right. Hardly the kind of intelligence you want when you embark on a mission like the one we did.

Jessica Chastain is fabulous here, and she’s quietly good in the part. She’s fiery when she needs to be, and you sigh in relief when she sighs. You don’t get to know the other characters that well, but that honestly didn’t bother me because she was clearly a creature of solitude and kept others at a distance. She didn’t succeed out of being super-social.

I wonder if one day the real-life operative will ever get the public kudos she deserves. As the film points out “once you’re on the list, you’re never off the list,” I wonder that even after she retires whether it will be safe for her to do so (unlike the operative behind Argo)

Regardless this is one of those films that needs to be seen and for a person to make up their own mind on the material. And that doubly goes for those demanding it be pulled without having seen it. For every good and noble deed that has been done in the name of our country, we have done some incredibly ugly things – and events like this are just the surface. Denying the past is dangerous, and trying to bury it doesn’t change the fact that it happened – and, realistically, will likely happen again.

My grade: A-


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