Following recent movies Argo and Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty is the latest in a role call of propaganda pics to hit the big screen. Zero Dark Thirty is the military term for 30 minutes after midnight in reference to the time the U.S. Navy S.E.A.Ls stormed Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Ladin’s compound in May 2011.

The film begins ten years earlier with the replaying of audio recordings taken at the time of the September 11th terrorist attack in New York City, which led to the invasion of Afghanistan and ends with the very public death of its chief architect in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Based on firsthand accounts, Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Point Break) and The Hurt Locker’s award winning screenwriter Mark Boal tell the true story of the World’s greatest manhunt.

Supported by an impressive cast, Zero Dark Thirty is a complex tale that chronicles the search for the infamous Islamic terrorist network and its prominent leader following the 9/11 attacks until its high profile conclusion.

Jessica Chastain (Lawless, The Help) takes on an uncharacteristic role of dedicated intelligence operative Maya, whose determination was pivotal in the decade long hunt for Bin Ladin. A character based on a real life female CIA agent.

Working closely with CIA interrogator Dan, played by Australian actor Jason Clarke (Lawless, Public Enemy), the young Maya learns first hand of the more unsavoury elements of the clandestine industry.

Waterboarding, sleep deprivation, bribery and humiliation are just some of the tactics used to get information from detainees. We experience the pain and embarrassment of torture through the eyes of suspected terrorist Ammar (Reda Kateb), which is uncomfortable to watch.

Bigelow is a talented filmmaker whose brand of military realism is effective and watchable. Successfully combining real footage of terrorist attacks, from Saudi Arabia to the UK, with the individual stories of the important players in the tale of modern warfare, it’s unsurprising Zero Dark Thirty has been nominated for five Oscars.

The single minded Maya is convinced she has a lead on the possible whereabouts of Bin Ladin but is often thwarted by her superiors, including CIA Station Chief Joseph Bradley (Kyle Chandler) and George, a senior CIA official played by Mark Strong (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Sherlock Holmes),

Maya’s tenacious nature may have helped in her professional role, but it also makes for a dislikeable and one dimensional character. Portrayed as a lonely figure, she has very little other than her pursuit of Al-Qaeda’s Number One.

Zero Dark Thirty is a well crafted movie, full of tension, succinct dialogue and many contemporary references from Abu Ghraib to Donald Rumsfeld. The accuracy of the film maybe up for debate but Zero Dark Thirty a fascinating and dramatic insight into the world of modern espionage.

Certificate 15, General Release.

2 Responses to “Review: Zero Dark Thirty”

  1. I dont understand how the film is a ‘propaganda pic’ if it also shows the more morally repellant actions performed by the characters and asks the audience to question their actions.

  2. Hi Joss, the film can be seen as a ‘propaganda pic’ as it’s storytelling is very one sided. Though the movie highlights some questionable actions, it’s resolute in it’s belief that the US actions are just and as their enemies are not, much like many WWII movies.

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