Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty is the most intense movie experience since…well…. Schindler’s List, maybe? Saving Private Ryan?

Jessamyn and I showed up at Century City, one of only five theaters in the country where it’s currently playing, thirty minutes before a morning show, and we could only get the second row. “Every show after this is sold out until nine o’clock.”

The second row it was.

But the moment it starts, you forget the second row, you forget that it’s a 2 hour and 40 minute movie, you forget absolutely everything except what’s going on before you: Maya, a young CIA analyst played by Jessica Chastain leads the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

The new movie by Kathryn Bigelow, who won the Best Director Oscar for Hurt Locker, is big in every way and has best picture ju-ju emanating from every frame.

Originally scheduled to open in October, the film’s release was delayed over protests that it would be a effort to influence the election. Wide release happens on January 11. But far and away biggest attention has been on the movie’s torture scenes, which open the film in a grueling vicious way. They are brutal, I flinched and looked away more than once. But apparently they are toned down slightly since an earlier cut and I, for one, think they are necessary.

Torture is a part of what happened. The scenes are solely at the very beginning, as Saving Private Ryan, opens with a huge battle scene, as a way of establishing the seriousness and import of this story. They are brutal but not gratuitous, and the film, to my eyes, makes no judgment on whether torture was essential in finding bin Laden. David Denby, movie critic of the New Yorker complains that “the movie makers want to claim both the authority of fact and the freedom of fiction at the same time, and the contradiction mars an ambitious project.”

But can’t the same argument be made for any feature film based on fact?

I, too, always want to know where the truth ends and liberties begin, and in this case the character of Maya, brilliantly played by Jessica Chastain, is so relentless, so involved, so overarching, so involved at every turn it is hard to believe she is not a composite character.

So I had a chat with Mr. Google and sure enough, she is a totally real person, who did just as was depicted, though of course, she is a CIA operative and not exactly available for interviews.

What I would love to see, and is definitely not addressed here, is more nuance in whether it’s right for us to go in and just assassinate someone, even someone as awful as bin Laden.

But that would be a different movie.

In the meantime, go see Zero Dark Thirty.

Book your tickets ahead and make a pit stop before settling in for the ride.

About Karen Ray

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