Movie review: ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

By Mayeesa Mitchell, Staff Writer

April 24, 2013

Within the sea of sci-fi, fantasy and novel-to-Hollywood movies that have flooded the film entertainment industry in the last few years lies within one movie that reminds its viewers of the impact that a film can have on our lives. This movie is “Zero Dark Thirty,” an intense and relatively realistic depiction of the 10-year hunt for Osama bin Laden which was released in December of 2012.

Mark Boal, a well-known journalist and award winning screenwriter, applied his skill to the screenplay of “Zero Dark Thirty.” He chose to tell the story line from the point-of-view of Maya (Jessica Chastain), a strong-headed, driven and fiercely patriotic CIA operative who dedicated a decade of her life to the search for Bin Laden. The viewers are first introduced to Maya as she watches a brutal interrogation of an Iranian man who is thought to have information on a proposed attack. Immediately, questions such as “Who is this woman?”, “Why is she in Iraq?” and, “Why is she okay with watching a man be tortured?” rise up. Many of these questions go unanswered throughout the 157-minute movie. It seems as if Boal isn’t big on character development. That is until the last few seconds of the movie when we begin to praise his approach once we discover that Maya doesn’t have the answers either.

“Zero Dark Thirty” follows Maya, a CIA operative whose first assignment is to interrogate suspected members of the Al Qaeda terrorist group after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Although she is weary of the tactics at first, it doesn’t take her long to become accustomed to the brutal torture that interrogation involves. Throughout the years, we see Maya fight to follow a small lead that she believes will uncover the hiding place of Al Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden. It takes a change of Commander-in-Chief, CIA administration and ten years for Maya’s hunch to prove to be profitable. In accordance with historical records, Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 completes the job, killing Osama bin Laden and leaving Maya without a purpose in life after a decade of dedicating herself to a mission that ended in just a few moments.

Jessica Chastain, who plays Maya, brings a sense of fearlessness, determination and most unexpected sensitivity to her character. Chastain, who is most famous for her award winning role in “The Help”, makes the movie as we watch her transform from a buttoned up CIA agent to an operative who is willing to do anything to get the right intel. The shining moment for this seasoned actress is within the scene that Maya discovers that a meeting with a high-ranking terrorist went awry leaving operatives, including the only person who could be considered her friend, dead. Once she recovers from hearing the news, Chastain responds with fire in her eyes and a fierce determination vowing to catch and kill the men who did this. She makes you believe that she was going to stop at nothing to accomplish her goal with just one look.

Jessica Chastain brings Mark Boal’s brilliant script to life in a way that the American public can relate to. Their combined talents create a dramatic and intuitive portrayal into the difficulties and triumphs of the hunt for Bin Laden.

Although it is based on true events, “Zero Dark Thirty” is not a documentary, being that certain events were embellished for cinematic purposes. It is categorized as a historical drama but also embodies many of the traits of a suspense or thriller film. “Zero Dark Thirty” is rated R for language and its unsettling gruesome visuals.