COLUMBIA (WACH) - In a world with global positioning satellites and technology that can literally find a needle in a haystack, the decade long hunt for Osama Bin Laden finally came to an end thanks to gut instincts and pure tenacity.
The highly anticipated account of the hunt for Bin Laden comes to us from Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow, although this film is nothing like her former work. From the same director that brought us Point Break, Bigelow finally took home the Oscar for Best Film in 2010 for The Hurt Locker, a combat film starring then newcomer Jeremy Renner as an AED removal specialist. The intensity present in The Hurt Locker is surprisingly absent in Zero Dark Thirty, but for good reason. The pace and energy of the film mirrors the arduous task of locating a man who is skilled at remaining undetectable. If you go to this film looking for highly choreographed fight scenes or bloody war battles, you won't find it here. What you will find is a credible thread of events, research, intuition, and yes, some questionable information gathering tactics that ultimately led to the location and execution of the worlds most wanted criminal.
Jessica Chastain plays Maya, a CIA operative who gets stationed in Afghanistan as part of a team assigned to locate the head of the Al Qaeda network who had gone into hiding following attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001. Maya is highly intelligent, having been recruited to the CIA right out of high school, and has a razor sharp focus on finding and killing bin Laden. The Middle-Eastern POWs were prepared to die rather than divulge information, and Jason Clarke gives a compelling performance as the first man on duty when it comes to extracting intell. With the safety of our nation and possibly the world at stake, Maya quickly understands that the interrogation of detainees is a necessary evil as the waterboarding technique brings forth useable information. These scenes are difficult, and call into question morality and war crimes without getting political. In fact the film generally steered clear of the White House or giving credit to any specific President, although it's established that Barack Obama is in office for those final executive decisions.
Maya and other operatives working with prisoners have a hard time convincing their superiors they have enough proof to move forward, so at times she seems like a pit bull with her teeth locked. Sometimes resorting to soft blackmail to convince Station Chief Joseph Bradley (Kyle Chandler) but seems to have an easier time tapping into the instincts of an unnamed CIA Director played with gentle intelligence by James Gandolfini. Eventually we get to the final stages of the operation when GPS technology brings Maya within feet of the unknown target as the CIA closes in on the courier believed to be the link to bin Laden. Enter SEAL Team Six and the Black Hawk helicopters that carried out this top secret mission without confirmation that their target was even in the suspected compound. I wont give away the ending but I'll say the cinematography was fast and chaotic and definitely leaves the viewer with the sence that they're part of the raid. Audiences might miss out on the usual Hollywood treatment, i.e. a love interest and rehearsed combat scenes, but the film more than makes up for it by offering something that most films cannot ... closure.
There's a featurette you can view with the cast, crew and consultants discussing the CIA operation. On the films official website you can view many of the actual news reports from various sources dating back to 2002 as the manhunt unfolded, and of course the recently published "SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Mission to kill Osama bin Laden"