This past weekend I had the chance to go see the Oscar Best Picture Nominee ZERO DARK THIRTY. The movie recounts the CIA manhunt for Usama Bin-Laden and is directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who won the Best Director Academy Award for The Hurt Locker.
The movie starts off with a black screen and audio recordings from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. I found this to be both powerful, but more importantly respectful of the events and those who lost their lives.
The film jumps two years later when the CIA ran their detainee program. CIA operative Maya (Jessica Chastain) arrives in Islamabad, Pakistan and witnesses her first CIA style interrogation led by senior operative Dan (Jason Clarke). The interrogation techniques used include sleep deprivation, water boarding, boxing, and using dog collars on the detainees. The visuals are quite jarring and graphic, but undoubtedly are really still nothing compared to what actually occurred.
What the film also highlights is the change in tactics on foreign soil due to the political climate back in the United States. One of the most intriguing points the film subtly makes is that the original information on the courier, confirmed by interviews with over 20 detainees, would not have been possible without that program. You understand the frustration when the hierarchy wants confirmation of the person in the compound and, due to no longer having the detainee program, the CIA has no one to talk to.
The film covers the movements of CIA operatives during other terrorist attacks, such as the London bus bombing, the Islamabad Marriott bombing, and the attempted bombing of Times Square. The climax of the film, the actual raid on the compound, does feature some night vision footage but thankfully uses it more to set the atmosphere as opposed to becoming the atmosphere for the sequence. The action is quick paced and reminiscent of a first person shooter video game.
Overall, subject matter aside, I think it was a very well done movie. I would not be surprised if it takes Best Picture or if Jessica Chastain wins out over the other leading ladies at the Academy Awards this year. Then again, since The Avengers got snubbed, does it really matter?