"Zero Dark Thirty,"Kathryn Bigelow's follow-up to her Oscar winning "The Hurt Locker,"is a riveting account of the manhunt that led to the capture and death of Osama bin Laden. Like her prior film, "Zero Dark Thirty" is a masterful display of gritty filmmaking that delivers interesting political commentary without ever taking a moral side. However, what makes Zero Dark Thirty a more successful film is that Bigelow manages to keep track of the humanism among the politicking and lengthy jargon-filled conversations.
As the film initiates a title card indicates September 11, 2001. Bigelow tactfully brings the viewer back in time with a cacophony of phone conversations overlapping on a black screen. Knowing the traumatic effect the imagery could have on certain viewers, Bigelow tactfully maintains a black screen throughout the sequence, which is all the more impactful. After a few moments, Bigelow cuts to 2003 where the CIA is in the midst of its operation to find bin Laden. The initial sequences of the film feature the controversial torture scenes that have been called into question by a number of politicians, but the Academy Award winning director shows a great deal of restraint in the portrayal of such cruel moments. While Bigelow shows enough to make one uncomfortable, none of the tortures are ever drawn out or gratuitous in execution. The sequences also serve to establish Bigelow's decision to present the film in an objective manner. We do not get to interact enough with most of these characters and the decision to maintain some distance ensures that there is no kinship with either side. There are no good guys or bad guys in this tale; just humans. It makes for some interesting questioning of the treatment of the prisoners and even makes the viewer wonder whether the revenge on bin Laden really made all the crimes against other humans worthwhile. Even as American characters spew out statistics on how many people bin Laden has killed, one is often left wondering if these Americans really do have the moral high ground in these conversations and if their own torturing of the prisoners is not as bad as the crimes they keep on using to justify their actions. continue reading