Zero Dark Thirty: Bin Laden film focusses on facts, not flash
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On one end of the Sony Pictures Entertainment lot here is a three-storey rainbow: a new work of public art that seems to sprout from the Thalberg executive building and convey the magic of the made-up world of the movies.
Across the lot is art of another kind: a towering black billboard announcing the bleak arrival of Zero Dark Thirty, a movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden that is replete with jarringly gruesome scenes of torture as Central Intelligence Agency officers seek information.
To join the grit of history with the glow of narrative film was the task Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal set out to accomplish with Zero Dark Thirty. It is among Hollywood's most challenging films since The Hurt Locker, the brutal Iraq war drama that Bigelow directed and Boal wrote and that won the best-picture Oscar from Avatar in 2010.
The new movie is not for the faint of heart or for those expecting typical Hollywood fare. Whether Zero Dark Thirty succeeds may depend on the willingness of audience members (and awards voters) to relive difficult events in a drama that Bigelow and Boal insist should honour the facts and protect sources, even if that means giving less attention to cinematic conventions like a love interest, comic twists (à la "Argo") or characters' back stories.
"I don't want to play fast and loose with history," said Boal, a professional journalist who wrote the film, and, with Bigelow and Megan Ellison, produced it.
Bigelow, who directed Zero Dark Thirty and joined Boal in a Friday morning telephone interview, said, "My sole focus was to try and bring what Mark reported to the screen as faithfully as I could."
Zero Dark Thirty is being thrown into the Oscar race alongside other late entries, like Les Misérables, Life of Pi, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Django Unchained. Sony expects to qualify Zero Dark Thirty for Oscar consideration with a limited theatrical run in late December, and a flurry of promotional screenings for Hollywood guilds, starting Sunday. The film is to open more broadly on January 11.
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