Zero Dark Thirty originally started out as a much different film. After The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal were originally in pre-production on a film that centered on the 2001 battle of Tora Bora. This was an engagement that took place in Afghanistan following September 11th, because it was believed that was where Osama Bin Laden was hiding at the time.
The project had a finished script, tied in with countless hours of research and they were about to begin filming, then news broke that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.
That project was immediately shelved and what evolved out of the research and the recently transpired events was Zero Dark Thirty, named after the military term for half-past midnight and the secrecy that surrounded the operation.
While some folks did accuse the Obama administration of allowing the filmmakers access to classified documents, that was far before anyone had actually seen the film, same with the accusations of it being a pro-torture film as well. How much of the film is based on facts and conjecture is still up for debate, since the events the film portrays are still currently classified and this is a work of historical fiction if you will.
The film cobbles together several “first hand accounts” to create its cohesive and very compelling narrative. While some may have expected a film based solely on the Navy Seals, the film instead follows CIA Targeteer Maya (Jessica Chastain) and her decade long hunt for intelligence that will lead her to Bin Laden. Maya and her story is an amalgamation of Ex-Navy Seal Mark Bissonnette’s ‘Jen’ from his tell-all No Easy Day and Jennifer Matthews, another CIA agent who was killed in the line of duty and featured in the book The Triple Agent by Joby Warrick.
The events in Zero Dark Thirty are presented very matter of factly, which may upset some, but also while being very respectful not to exploit the situations. The film is a well-crafted and perfectly paced look at the realities and atrocities of modern warfare, which we may honestly lack the distance to view subjectively at this moment in time.
The script by Mark Boal somehow manages to allow us to connect to these characters even though we may never be able to relate to their actions in real life.
The casting in the film is nothing short of amazing, Jessica Chastain’s performance is almost enough to call her Oscar win already as far as I am concerned. The rest of the cast is almost a greatest hits of dramatic television, that thankfully never takes away from the story at hand. With the likes of Kyle Chandler, Harold Perrineau, James Gandolfini, Jason Clarke and John Barrowman you really couldn’t ask for better casting choices a film like this.
Zero Dark Thirty is an important and powerful film that maybe for the time being the closest we get to know what happened that night in the Bin Laden compound. The minute you sit down in your seat you know are you in good hands with Kathryn Bigelow, because with Zero Dark she proves she is possibly the greatest female director of our time.
Zero Dark Thirty is a Patriotic film that shows not just what happens on the battlefield but the work that goes behind the scenes of an operation such as this, and with that I give Zero Dark Thirty a 5 out of 5 stars.