Chloe Sesta-JacobsComment

#NASTYWOMEN: COLUMN 4: ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012) REVIEW

Chloe Sesta-JacobsComment
#NASTYWOMEN: COLUMN 4: ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012) REVIEW

#NASTYWOMEN: COLUMN 4: ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012) REVIEW

DIRECTOR: KATHRYN BIGELOW

Chloe Sesta Jacobs

In this column I’ll be focusing on women in film; profiling wonderful directors, writers and characters. While I’ll be open to exploring great female characters in all films, I’m going to concentrate on and celebrate women surrounded by women. 

Everyone remembers where they were when they heard about 9/11 and I imagine a lot remember where they were when they found out about the death of Osama bin Laden. I was eleven years old when the former occurred, my Mum burst into my room around 5am, shortly after she had woken up and turned on the news, exclaiming that thousands of people had been killed in a terrorist attack. That was pretty much my first encounter with those words and in my tired state I couldn’t comprehend the enormity of the situation. I went back to sleep. When the latter took place, I was behind the counter at the old Lonsdale Street JB Hi-Fi, furiously scrolling on my phone, trying to get new information by the second. A lot happened in the almost ten years that took place between these two events and the world was a very different place to what it was on the morning of September 11, 2001.

Zero Dark Thirty opens with a black screen and sounds from 9/11, frightened calls from people in the buildings, and ends with the death of bin Laden. The whopping two hours and 37 minutes in between (yeah, a little excessive) shows the hunt for the world’s most wanted man at the hands of CIA agent Maya (Jessica Chastain). Maya is an absolute warrior, she’s strong, intelligent and has conviction. We could essentially rename this film Maya vs. the Haters, as she initially struggles to persuade those around her that bin Laden isn’t hiding in a cave in Afghanistan hooked up to a dialysis machine, but living freely in a house in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Maya delivers the best line in the film, while she’s in a meeting with the dry, foul-mouthed CIA director (James Gandolfini – be still, my beating heart). Relegated to the back of the room while a group of staff are looking at a model of the house Maya believes bin Laden to be hiding in, he asks who she is. “I’m the motherfucker that found this place, sir”, she responds. What a dead set legend. He was clearly impressed too.

I am quite drawn to and fascinated by the events in Zero Dark Thirty, but there is the huge question mark surrounding the film’s historical accuracy. Sure, it’s based on what happened, but how reliable is it? It depends on who you ask. Extensive research went into making Zero Dark Thirty, including apparent access to key people in the CIA. However, a huge part of the first half of the film is centered around obtaining information through torture and needless to say the United States doesn’t come across in a great light. Early on in the film, we’re thrust into the interrogation of Ammar (Rada Kateb, Far From Men, A Prophet) by Dan (Jason Clarke), and we see every tactic under the sun. Waterboarding, sleep deprivation, Ammar is shoved into a box, he’s subjected to loud heavy metal music blasted through the speakers in his room, he’s stripped naked and degraded and well, I’ll stop there because you get it. It’s graphic as all hell and not good stuff. 

Kathryn Bigelow manages to combine drama and thriller superbly. One has to wonder though, especially considering the raid on bin Laden’s house takes up the last almost forty minutes of the film, what her point is. At times it feels as though she’s trying to expose the United States’ government for being thugs, but then she ends on an extremely drawn out, high intensity, get-your-hand-off-it tribute to the Navy SEALs that ended bin Laden’s life.  

After news of bin Laden’s death broke out, we saw footage of people dancing and cheering in the streets. Parades of Americans were laughing, some crying with happiness.  The United States killed bin Laden, but at what cost? What did this mean for the world and for al-Qaeda’s cause? Not only are we left pondering these questions, but so is Maya, as she is flown home from Pakistan, most likely wondering what is next. No one wins here. 

Chloe Sesta Jacobs is a people and culture geek who loves writing about film and usually does so with her two miniature sausage dogs lying all over her. Chloe really enjoys world cinema and has been heard to say “if it doesn’t have subtitles, don’t talk to me”. She also tweets a LOT at @csestajacobs.

 

Chloe Sesta Jacobs is a people and culture geek who loves writing about film and usually does so with her two miniature sausage dogs lying all over her. Chloe really enjoys world cinema and has been heard to say “if it doesn’t have subtitles, don’t talk to me”. She also tweets a LOT at @csestajacobs.