Zero Dark Thirty is special ops talk for a half hour after midnight. That’s the time when a team of SEALS (American Navy commandos) attacked a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan and killed Osama Bin Laden. Many thought he was hiding in a cave in Afghanistan but he was living in relative comfort for six years, with several wives and children, less than a mile from the Pakistani military academy. It’s called hiding in plain sight.
Hundreds of CIA people had hunted Bin Laden since 9/11 and they didn’t kill him until 2011. The movie focuses on one dedicated agent (based on a real person who is still undercover) who tracks him down. She’s played by Jessica Chastain, who’s already won a Golden Globe for the role and will likely win the Best Actress Oscar for it too.
Sometimes the search is more exciting than the actual attack. This is more documentary style that director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal’s previous film The Hurt Locker.
The film is criticized for its depictions of water boarding and other tortures on Al-Queda operatives as the CIA searches for the 9/11 mastermind. Those scenes are not easy to watch, nor are they meant to be. There’s a large cast of supporting characters and it’s not always clear, on first viewing, who they all are. But the film generates a lot of excitement and tension, even though the outcome is already known. It is nearly always a gripping and compelling film.
Rating: four deer out of five
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Alf Cryderman is a Red Deer freelance writer and old movie buff.