Monday, January 28, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty ★★★★★

A PICTURE TELLS A REMARKABLE STORY
 
 

Australia: 31st January 2013; USA 11thJanuary UK 25th January
Other Countries: Release Information
 
 

Zero Dark Thirty is the story behind ‘that’ news photo.  You know the one with Obama, his advisors, Vice President Biden and Hillary Clinton, sitting in a room staring at live feed of the Osama bin Laden capture mission.  Hillary’s hand covers her mouth in what looks like shock. 
           Their looks haunted me—what were they seeing?  Thanks to Oscar®-winning creative duo Director Kathryn Bigelow and producer and screenwriter Mark Boal we now know.  They were watching the culmination of a hell of a pursuit and capture mission spanning almost ten years; a mission that was mostly only successful thanks to a small team of CIA operatives.
 
 
The quest to tell the story of Zero Dark Thirty would eventually lead Bigelow and Boal into their own labyrinthine encounter with secretiveness and intense production challenges during their six years of sourcing and reporting the story for accuracy.
 
“This thing is pretty handmade,” says Boal, “and it’s gone through two iterations. It began six years ago as a movie about the failure to capture bin Laden in Tora Bora. I spent a few years on that, researching and writing, and we were in pre-production of that film by 2011, with scouts in Romania. Then, more or less out of the blue, bin Laden was killed, and that film became ancient history. So I had to start again.”
Along with the audience, the central character of the story, Maya (Jessica Chastain), is parachuted into the hunt for bin Laden with the unsettling experience of an “enhanced interrogation” session of an Al Qaeda detainee. Maya mirrors the audience’s mixed emotions on these interrogations. They are tough to watch. 
 
When it came to shooting these sequences, Bigelow took a leap far outside her comfort zone. “As a human being I wanted to cover my eyes, but as a filmmaker, I felt a responsibility to document and bear witness,” she says. “I felt I had to overcome my discomfort for the sake of telling the story.”
Maya begins to believe that one man, Abu Ahmed, a shadowy figure mentioned by many of the interrogated captives, is the key to bin Ladin’s location.  However, after so many false leads over the years, Maya is the only person who still firmly believes in her theory. 
The story follows a small group of agents through the years and peeks behind the terrorist news headlines as al-Qaeda strikes at the US and even the team attempting to track him. It is a dangerous and dirty game.  The last quarter of the film is a unique visceral experience; taut and horrific in its authenticity, as the SEAL team breaches the bin Laden compound accomplishing the historic conclusion.
 
The film has garnered great controversy and criticism over its torture scenes but Boal responds. “Putting it mildly, this is an extremely controversial subject.  I wanted to try to capture the complexity of the situation, morally and psychologically. It’s not an aesthetic goal of the film to settle scores, or end the debate about torture’s efficacy. But it was part of the story and we needed to include it.  The goal was to portray the events vividly and to make them real for the audience.”
“On the other hand,” he says, “towards the end of the film, we see that, ultimately, bin Laden’s compound was found not through any of these techniques, but through a combination of bribery, traditional spy work and electronic surveillance.
In case you’re wondering, Zero Dark Thirty is military jargon for the dark of night, as well as the moment—12:30 a.m.—when the Navy SEALs first stepped foot on the Osama compound.  It's a moment captured in 'that' photo that will leave history to dictate the true ramifications.  And it sure makes a remarkable movie.