LAKE OCONEE —
Rated R: Contains strong violence, including brutal and disturbing images, and for profanity.
Regardless of the cacophonous debate over the film, “Zero Dark Thirty” is a suspenseful, albeit simplistic, depiction of how the intelligence community and an elite military team killed Osama bin Laden.
First let’s deal with some of the white noise about “Zero Dark Thirty.” It seems there are about three major complaints.
Point One: If the film is to be taken literally, Osama bin Laden is dead because of one CIA analyst, a woman named Maya. Just about everybody else had lost interest and was focused on terrorism prevention.
Point Two: The film shows various methods of torture used under the Bush administration, which is too heavily handed on film and exaggerated in regard to gathering information on the location of Osama bin Laden.
Point Three: President Obama complicated things (or not) by removing the use of torture to gather information and was more than a little cautious in attacking the bin Laden’s fortress in Pakistan.
I have read that the CIA is furious about the film. The claim that it was a team effort and torture was not used (as much as the film claims) by the CIA when trying to track down Osama bin Laden. Also, there is some political bickering and sniping because the White House, politicians on both sides of the aisle, and the CIA were allegedly cooperative and now some are — not clear which group — apparently annoyed with the actual final results. (One article claims the White House is fine with it but the CIA is not.)
I think all of this makes my head hurt and is chuckleheaded chatter anyway. It is, after all, just a movie.
I think there are idiots who go to the movies and think whatever is seen on the screen after “based on the (or a) true story” is actually true. These are the same chuckleheads that send me all those moronic emails that claim things that simply are urban legends and can be easily disproved if they bothered to do any intelligent research without frothing at the mouth. With that crowd, I have little hope. So, for those of you with an IQ higher that a snail’s belly let us settle on this point: “Zero Dark Thirty” is a semi-factual, semi-fictional depiction of the justifiable homicide of Osama bin Laden. To you, I declare that it is a scintillating presentation, thanks to the usual hands of director Kathryn Bigelow who brought us “The Hurt Locker.”
“Zero Dark Thirty” is an “adult action film” and by that, I mean, nobody looks like they spent half of their life in a plastic surgeon’s office and the other half sheet-billowing with Miss Moneypenny or James Bond. There are no car crashes or leaping from trains. There are some explosions but these were actually based on real incidents.
The acting is low-key and well delivered especially by Jessica Chastain and Jason Clarke. Bigelow kept her cast to second-tier stars — which is to her credit. Her only misstep for me is in casting Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) as Leon Penetta — that was an unnecessary distraction, especially with his terroristic, wig which triggered some real-life carping between Gandolfini and Penetta.
Kathryn Bigelow set the tone of the film by starting the film off with a black screen and the voices of people trapped on the upper floors of the Twin Towers, the last pair of voices we hear are of a woman telling the 911 responder that the floor is engulfed in flames, she is burning up, and asks if she is going to die. The responder tells her nobly she will be saved. When the line goes silent, we hear — and feel — the despair in the recorded voice of the anonymous 911 responder. After that, all that matters is that our people find and kill Osama bin Laden … to avenge the woman asking her fate and the other woman telling her help was on the way, when both knew all was lost.
“Zero Dark Thirty” is not jingoistic bluff and nonsense; it is not James Bond tuxedo and martini fantasy; it is what it was, and is, in the world of tradecraft.
The sum total of all this is brilliantly summarized by a CIA analyst when she makes a toast to Maya: “Here’s to the big breaks … and the little people that make ’em happen.”
“Zero Dark Thirty” earns four and a half bow ties out of five.