Review: Zero Dark Thirty
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True to the ambiguity of her job, Maya doesn't get any sort of background or personal touch, apart from being seen flinching in her initial interrogation sessions with detainees and later insisting on sitting through them. Yes, she is dogged, tenacious and a great analyst. But, pieced together from many women agents who actually helped the CIA track Osama -- including one who followed the lead of the courier, which Maya persists with here -- she is just half a picture.
This is where the Bigelow-Boal team departs from The Hurt Locker. A more difficult story to relate to, it was told extraordinarily effectively by the means of how close it got to and lead us up to its subjects.
Zero Dark Thirty picks pace when the scent for Osama gets hotter, when it gets its hands dirty on the crowded streets of what passes for Rawalpindi and Peshawar, when an excited agent invites certain death in desperation that has caught up in the 10-year hunt for the world's most wanted terrorist, or when careful politicians need convincing in cynical, distant Washington. Bigelow certainly earns her stripes with the Abottabad raid alone, shown in extended detail but without losing any of the dangerous riskiness of it.
As for the much-debated interrogation scenes of Zero Dark Thirty, the talk largely revolves around one interrogation at the beginning where a financier to 9/11 proves hard to crack under tactics ranging from beatings and waterboarding to being kept locked inside a box, put naked in a dog collar and being subjected to sexual humiliation. Covering the entire gamut of what we saw at Abu Ghraib, the film hints that's de riguer at all CIA 'black sites' with detainees.
The other side has argued that Bigelow actually builds a case for brain rather than brawn as having cracked the hunt, given that it is eventually Maya who pieces the clues together. However, there is no disputing in the film where those clues came from -- from detainees tortured long and hard enough to spill the beans.