Manhunt!—- Zero Dark Thirty

Black Hawk, black ops, black night, black deeds. The cover of darkness. The color of darkness. The character of death.

Zero Dark Thirty is without question most of the riveting manhunt movies ever made. It has the sort of gritty reality character we have become accustomed to with films like Saving Private Ryan. And full marks to Kathyrn Bigelow who does not race through the painstaking intelligence and detective work in order to arrive at the foreknown and foreordained conclusion. This movie is not for the faint of heart, nor does it make me want to be: 1) a CIA agent, or 2) a Navy Seal. And certainly there is plenty of irony in the film when we have juxtaposed the President’s remarks that America does not defy the Geneva convention and torture, whilst depicting the torture of operatives from the world of terrorism. The torture scenes by themselves make this movie unsuitable for young children or even young teens, but I would say that any American who actually cares about the issue of terrorism should see this film. It shows just what a needle in a haystack job it is to find and bring down someone like Osama bin Laden.

From start to finish, this film is Jessica Chastain’s baby, her film to star in. She has been fantastic in other films (e.g. The Help, The Tree of Life), but here we see the full arc of what she can do. And it is very impressive. She has already won the Golden Globe for this performance, and I will not be surprised if she wins others as well. As Maya, Jessica Chastain is that relentless obsessed operative who will not give up until she ‘get’s her man’, the modern day Napoleon of terror. All the other characters revolve around Maya, or interact with Maya. She is a woman on a mission.

One of the interesting aspects of this film is that despite the fact we all know the outcome, nevertheless the film is gripping and rachets up the tension to a very high level. On the other hand, the movie doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in our intelligence service that it took this one woman so long to convince people to do something about what she had discovered. This story is based in fact of course, but we cannot know how accurate or close to the facts the story actually adheres.

The end of the film presents us with a drained, exhausted woman sitting in the back of a huge cargo plane, waiting to go home. What do you do for an encore once you’ve taken down bin Laden? We will never know. What I know is, that while I was at the Rose Parade there was a fly over of a stealth bomber. It was so quiet, I never heard it, I only saw it. It was this huge black bird flying low in the sky while making no sound. It sent chills down my spine. That is the way it is with successful black ops— run silent, fade to black.

  • Jon Nelson

    Excellent film. It’s the opposite of Bond; in fact, the opposite of almost every mainstream spy thriller, with their impossibly quick-witted and skilled protagonists. ZDT has perhaps permanently deflated my enjoyment of such good-guy fantasies. Quite an achievement, considering that we all know how it ends. As for endorsing torture: there’s no way to watch those lengthy scenes of pain and degradation and think: “Oh, yes, let’s have more of that, please.” Sure, the pages of the Guardian are filling up with indignant comments, but ZDT isn’t out in Britain until the 25th. As for similar opinions in America: well, it’s Oscar season and the gloves are off.

  • Jon Altman

    My problem with the movie (which has been a matter of considerable discussion between my 18 year old son and me) is that well done art in the service of the “Myth of Redemptive Violence” is worse than poorly done art.

  • Stephen

    I haven’t seen this yet, but I plan to. My favorite thing about this movie is watching the liberal Hollywood types get all up in arms over this movie because it shows that torture played a role in catching Bin Laden.

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben Witherington

    I agree with you Jon. It is a problem. BW3

  • James Petticrew

    I am interested in the change in American values over the last 70 years. Towards the end of the last war, Stalin was definitely for simply shooting Nazi war criminals out of hand, Churchill was at the very least open to the idea. However the US was adamant, and I think rightly, that they should be brought to trial and due legal process should be seen to be done. During the so called “troubles” in Ulster many in the US government were highly critical of the UK for allegedly torturing IRA prisoners and of course accused the UK of having a shoot to kill policy.

    Yet after 9/11 the commitment to legal process seems to have gone, torture seems now to be justifiable and of course Bin Ladens execution has hardly raised an eyebrow. What has changed in US culture?

  • Stephen Massey

    It is interesting that people only talk about the moral implications of torture and not the actual killing of Bin Laden.

  • Jon Altman

    It was the killing of Bin Laden that bothered me the most. We sent our military into another country to, essentially, execute someone without trial. In the process we killed a bunch of other people in the house, including some who were not shooting at our well armed and armor protecting SEALS. It was, plain and simple, “revenge” for 9/11/01. I’m about as staunch a Democrat as they come, but I did not AT ALL like the “Dancing on Bin Laden’s grave” that went on during the Democratic National Convention.

  • Jon Altman

    It was the killing of Bin Laden that bothered me the most. We sent our military into another country to, essentially, execute someone without trial. In the process we killed a bunch of other people in the house, including some who were not shooting at our well armed and armor protected SEALS. It was, plain and simple, “revenge” for 9/11/01. I’m about as staunch a Democrat as they come, but I did not AT ALL like the “Dancing on Bin Laden’s grave” that went on during the Democratic National Convention.

  • Patrick

    James,

    Reality. We are good at preaching to others when we don’t have a clue, we got a clue on 9-11 what it really is like out there and did what we complain about.

    Jon,

    We’ve done that with US citizens as well. Bomb on the head, see ya. Awalaki in Yemen. Presidents of large strong states can do stuff like that w/o fear of being arrested and hanged like Hussein or Milosevic types.