Saturday 26 January 2013

Movie Review: Zero Dark Thirty

93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Nominated for five Academy Awards (to be held on Feb 24/2013) including best picture, best actress, and best original screenplay. Nominated for four Golden Globes; won for best actress. It had its premiere on December 18, 2012 with wide release on January 11, 2013. It had a budget of $40 million and as of this writing (Jan 26/2013) Box Office Mojo is showing the film's worldwide gross at $66 million. In a nutshell, it's a good film and I would recommend seeing it. Can anyone miss not seeing the end to the biggest manhunt in history?

But the big talk of this historical dramatization is whether the filmmakers got classified information to make the film (they say to their knowledge no one gave them classified information) and the alleged pro-torture stance of the story (I didn't see that at all). If there isn't a conspiracy, let's make one up.

I don't have to retell the plot because I'm sure everybody knows the story. There are no spoiler alerts. But the retelling of the search for Osama bin Laden, the piecing together of the key players in the Al Qaeda network and the eventual raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan make for a gripping two and a half hours. Willis? Stallone? Schwarzenegger? Sorry, none of the action stars can compete with real life.

For those who haven't seen the film yet, the big surprise of the story is that Osama who found by a female CIA operative Maya, the central figure in the film. This person is apparently not made up; she really exists but is still undercover for the CIA and her identity is unknown. It was she who put forward new ideas about finding bin Laden and it was she who spent the better part of a decade hunting him down. The hunt for Osama bin Laden was a success because of this woman.

The new ideas? Everyone thought Osama was hiding in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan but it turns out the best place to hide is in plain sight. The secret compound in Abbottabad was not far from a military academy, characterized in the film as Pakistan's West Point. Who would have guessed he would have been that close? Maya did and it was apparently also her idea to follow the various couriers who made up the Al Qaeda network and trace them back to the man himself. In the end it wasn't torture which found bin Laden but detective work with a lot of sophisticated high tech equipment.

As for the scenes of torture, America has its own demons to deal with. The Bush administration authorized "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" which included hypothermia, stress positions, and waterboarding used at such places as Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and Bagram. The question is whether or not these EITs worked. Waterboard me and I'll give up my mother. The filmmakers in responding to criticism have stated that to leave out the scenes of torture would be whitewashing history. On the other hand, in my opinion, the film does not condone torture or say that in the long run it solved the mystery as to bin Laden's whereabouts. Good detectives sleuth; they don't torture.

Bigelow explains the significance of the title: "It’s a military term for 30 minutes after midnight, and it refers also to the darkness and secrecy that cloaked the entire decade long mission." (Entertainment Weekly)

Final Word
This film is going to be talked about for a long time. Sorting out fact from fiction, determining if torture is condoned or condemned, finding out if classified materials were handed out will be discussed, investigated, and analysed by every right and left pundit, news broadcaster, and conspiracy theorist. At the end of the day, we have this film and the majority of us will never access to the details to confirm or refute the story. Someday a journalist historian will write the definite work on Osama bin Laden and maybe, just maybe we'll have all the (supposed?) facts in one book. Until then, there's Zero Dark Thirty.


Rotten Tomatoes: Zero Dark Thirty: 93%
Gripping, suspenseful, and brilliantly crafted, Zero Dark Thirty dramatizes the hunt for Osama bin Laden with intelligence and an eye for detail.

Wikipedia: Zero Dark Thirty
Zero Dark Thirty is a 2012 American historical drama film directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal. Billed as "the story of history's greatest manhunt for the world's most dangerous man," the film is a dramatization of the American operation that killed Osama bin Laden. ... It has attracted praise as well as controversy and strong criticism for its allegedly pro-torture stance and for allegedly obtaining improper access to classified materials.

ABC News - Nov 26/2012
'Zero Dark Thirty': Real-Life Stories Behind Controversial OBL Film
Filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal talk Exclusively to ABC News' Martha Raddatz on their new film.

Wikipedia: Death of Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden, the founder and head of the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda, was killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, shortly after 1 am local time by Navy SEALs of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group (also known as DEVGRU or SEAL Team Six). The operation, code-named Operation Neptune Spear, was carried out in a Central Intelligence Agency-led operation. In addition to DEVGRU, participating units included the U.S. Army Special Operations Command's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) and CIA operatives. The raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, was launched from Afghanistan. After the raid, U.S. forces took bin Laden's body to Afghanistan for identification, then buried it at sea within 24 hours of his death.

Wikipedia: Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad
Osama bin Laden's compound, known locally as the Waziristan Haveli, was the safe house in which Osama bin Laden was hiding when he was killed. The structure was located at the end of a dirt road just 0.8 miles (1.3 km) southwest of the Pakistan Military Academy in Bilal Town, Abbottabad, Pakistan. The suburban area of Bilal Town is an area housing retired military officers. Bin Laden was reported to have evaded capture living in the house for at least five years, hiding away from the public, who were allegedly unaware of his presence. Here he was killed by U.S. Navy Seals during a top secret infiltration mission on May 2, 2011. The building has since been demolished by the Pakistani government.


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