The latest film by Kathryn Bigelow focuses on the investigation and hunt of Osama Bin Laden.
Zero Dark Thirty was nominated in several Academy Award categories at this year’s ceremony but scored only for Best Achievement in Sound Editing. Jessica Chastain, who was nominated for her portrayal of the leading female character Maya, lost to Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook). Bigelow herself lost to Ang Lee in the Best Director category.
The films lasts a staggering 157 minutes and although Chastain’s Maya is the protagonist of the story, it is very difficult to relate to her. Instead of building the relationships between characters and audience, the film concentrates on recreating the events leading up to Bin Laden’s discovery. Maya serves as the character, who leads to audience around the plot, helping them to keep up with the discoveries of the investigation. On the other hand, she also exemplifies the impact the manhunt for Laden has had on the people involved. We rarely see her in personal exchanges with her colleagues and is all related to work, as the film hints at the manner in which her life has been engulfed by the endless chase for information.
…this is no longer a men-only field…
A subtle transition can be noted in her character by the influence of her life as an agent. Despite her flinching in the corner in the opening scene as a prisoner is being waterboarded during, she soon grows accustomed to what she has to do and the sacrifices she needs to make. Later in the film we see her taking part in interrogations.
Chastain is not the only talent in the film. Throughout the length of Zero Dark Thirty we see Kyle Chandler (King Kong, Argo, Super 8) and Mark Strong (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Sherlock Holmes, John Carter) as Maya’s superiors, and James Gandolfini as a CIA official. Maya is not the only woman, who is working in the male environment, as the film attempts to show that this is no longer a men-only field. We see her strike a friendship with Jessica (Jennifer Ehle), which is one of the few suggestions of her personal relationships.
…the endless struggle for clues to bin Laden…
The screenplay was written by Mark Boal, who also worked with Bigelow on her award-winning film The Hurt Locker and was awarded an Oscar for the script. Although it meticulously follows the chase for Bin Laden, featuring world events, which would be familiar to viewers, this is all it was meant to do. Initially, the film was meant to portray only the endless struggle for clues to bin Laden. However, after the turn of events in reality, the film had to change.
Despite the changes the story still caused for some criticism, mainly pointed at its depiction of interrogation practices and torture, as well as the insistence on its fictional character by critics and institutions. The climactic sequence devoted to the SEALs raid of Osama’s compound runs for almost 25 minutes, making it the longest in the film. Nevertheless, there is no judgement pointed at the means through which the characters finally reach their target and as a result, there seems to be nothing that has been ignored or omitted from the real events in this otherwise fictional dramatisation.
…one of the must-see films for this year…
Although it took few statuettes at the Oscars this year, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty remains one of the must-see films for this year. With an excellent central performance, the film presents a well-measured representation of the events of recent history.