I recently watched the “based on true story” movie Zero Dark Thirty. It has been hailed as a great motion picture, showing the events that lead up to the capture and death of Osama bin Laden. I’ve heard the point made several times that yes, everyone knows how the story ends, but how did it come to be? And truth be told, there is a very interesting story to be told. There a few things that I think the film conveyed wonderfully, most notably the passage of time.
The movie opens in 2003, ending in early May 2011. Other stories or mediums tend to gloss over the time passage. Making events seem to happen quicker, leaving it entirely up to the date in the title card to convey this. For me, that doesn’t usually work. This movie wanted to show how much time and effort was put into his capture, and it succeeded. Using real world events to their benefit, they would move forward in time (typically 2-3 years) to the next major event. Again, many other stories do this but in this case it was juxtaposed against other happenings (Obama’s inauguration, etc.). It really did seem like an impossible odds they were up against trying to find him.
The main character was Maya, played by Jessica Chastain. Her performance was somewhat problematic for me. For most of the film she seemed incredibly one dimensional, showing little to no emotion or personality. Towards the end of the 2 act she became more human, but mostly only showing anger. As a Julliard graduate, I don’t think this was her fault, more of a problem with the script. Then again, caring for her as a person wasn’t really the point, was it?
Her emotional outbursts came when her superiors were dragging their feet when advancing on intel. Other then these handful of times, she seemed incredibly vapid. One point they did make which did enjoy was how she was recruited out of High School and had primarily worked this case for 12 years. It became her all encompassing goal. When bin Laden was finally captured and killed, and the realization set in, all she could do was cry.
The character of Maya is based of the CIA operative who is credited with finding bin Laden. The woman is still undercover, not allowed to speak to the press. Her colleagues have been quoted at saying the film captures her “dedication and combative temperament.” This woman is also the basis for Claire Dane‘s character Carrie on Homeland. Having watched both seasons I can see the parallel.
Zero Dark Thirty is a wonderful movie capturing the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in bin Laden’s capture. If the subject matter appeals to you at all, I highly recommend.
What did you think of the movie? What should I talk about next? Comment or tweet.