Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Zero Dark Thirty
Directed by Katheryn Bigelow
Written by Mark Boal
(number 403)

Oh hey! A woman director! Amazing! I think this is my second female director so far? And this is about my 48th movie watched + blogged.

Straight off this movie was intense. The voice over is a real call from one of the towers in the World Trade Center after the planes had crashed, which is amazing for diving you straight into why this movie exists. But then it turns out this recording was used without the permission of the survivor’s family, which is less than ideal.

Then it cuts straight to Guantanamo Bay which… well it put me in mind of an amazing comic called Aaron and Ahmed about a man who goes to be a guard at Guantanamo Bay for revenge. It’s a horrifying thing and almost impossible to watch. I teared up almost instantly from the recording and then my stomach wanted to turn from watching a man be tortured.

How can I say this isn’t an easy movie more times? Huh well. I guess it’s tough because it’s based on things that happened, but one may never forget that this is an American movie and the veracity of the realism and the slant is pretty uncertain.

They show the Arabs preparing for attacks, but they don’t do much to humanise the race. The portrayal is very predictably ‘foreign’, greedy, destructive and willing to kill themselves for the cause.

Jessica Chastain and Jason Clarke are amazing leads. Jessica plays Maya, whose career trajectory we pretty much follow for the plot of the film – from a cold, uncertain woman who is discomforted by scenes of torture to a driven, obsessed professional who claims to want to kill Bin Laden herself. Jason plays Dan who is a kind of mentor to her at the start and becomes her equal, her ally. He’s more weathered, more hands on and less intelligent (I think). It’s such a relief to have such a complex and interesting woman in a lead role, and in many ways outshining her male counterpart.

There’s a wonderful conversation where she laughs at the idea of sleeping with Dan. I like that they avoided some kind of cutesy romance plot line in.

Despite all the grey areas and the discomfort it is a compelling film, almost despite myself I got wrapped up in the suspense of it. It’s very well made to a degree it feels like a documentary, except a documentary would never get this kind of access.

WTF John Barrowman what are you doing here? You and your beautiful face.

Anyway, this film is brutal and unrelenting.

Does it make me love the people?

It’s hard to love any of these characters in a pure way, because their actions are repellent. But I do find that I care about them and I love them as human characters. I was sad when Jessica bought it part way through as well.

(also Jessica Collins is a cutie.)

You are rooting for Maya and I think the director is careful to show her doing lots of normal things so that you can relate to her as well. I was grateful for the gravitas Jessica Chastain brought to her final scenes, opening the body bag to look into Usama’s face and then carefully, reverently closing it again and the shell shocked way she conducted herself in the final scene – climbing alone into an airforce plane because she must be important. The emotional side of things is not undercut or oversold, and that’s rare.

Bechdel test: Yes, Maya and Jessica talk a few times about various things. Also the opening audio is two women talking but they’re not named. Anyway, it’s amazing that Maya and Jessica talk.

Best line:

(how certain are you Bin Laden is in there?)
Maya: 100%… Okay, fine, 95 percent ’cause I know certainty freaks you guys out, but it’s a hundred.

State of Mind: sort of shell shocked and bleak.

Watched movie count

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