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Zero Dark Thirty Movie Review

Grade B+: Zero Dark Thirty is an interesting film about a group of CIA agents, one women in particular, trying to find and kill terrorist Osama Bin Laden in the aftermath of 9/11.

Zero Dark ThirtyHere, new agent Maya (Jessica Chastain) begins her career in the CIA hunting Bin Laden. She spends years helping with interrogations, flying around the world interviewing/interrogating people and finally heading up the investigation/interrogations herself as terrorist attacks rock Saudi Arabia and London and priorities shift elsewhere. When Maya and her team finally find what they believe to be Bin Laden’s hiding place after a decade searching, the next struggle is convincing those in control to raid the compound rather than taking the safe route and wait. I don’t think I’m ruining anything since a) the movie is based on fact and b) it’s featured so heavily in the trailers, but the last 30 minutes of Zero Dark Thirty is an on-the-ground view of this raid by Navy SEALS on the compound.

Watching Zero Dark Thirty I was struck with the idea behind the episode “Sometimes We Play Dirty Too” of the 1970 series The Sandbaggers. The notion here is that while we think our side is only doing good and would never do anything we find morally objectionable, in fact we sometimes play dirty too. Here, the initial kernel of information that sends Maya to eventually find Bin Laden comes from a stomach churning torture session on a suspected al-Qaeda financier that opens the movie.

It also shows the reality of a special forces raid where sometimes the wrong people are caught in the crossfire and in a world where anyone still breathing could set off a bomb it’s best to shoot wounded combatants laying on the ground to be sure they’re out of the fight.

But even with all this I never got the sense that the filmmakers of Zero Dark Thirty were saying that torture is wrong or right or that shooting wounded people like this is a good or bad thing. Just that like it or not this is how they found Bin Laden and this is what happened after.