‘Zero Dark Thirty’ tense, mesmerizing

Jack Moore, Staff Writer

Watching the first trailer of “Zero Dark Thirty,” a drama directed by Kathryn Bigelow which tells the story of history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man, I immediately became interested in the raid on Osama Bin Laden. Going into the movie I expected something similar to “The Hurt Locker,” another film directed by Bigelow. Since both films revolved around the theme of war, I naturally thought they would share many similarities. But while “Hurt Locker” addressed the horrors of improvised explosive devices in the general backdrop of the Iraqi war, “Zero Dark Thirty” instead focuses on the timeline leading up to a specific historical event.

Audiences will go to “Zero Dark Thirty” wanting different things. Some might expect a patriotic movie based primarily Americans winning out over the evils of terrorism, while others might anticipate allegations of torture as a means of intelligence-gathering. But the film offers neither of these.

“Zero Dark Thirty” has no action hero but rather a protagonist who’s neither armed nor field-experienced. Maya (Jessica Chastain) is a CIA analyst who men would frequently  underestimate. “Washington says she’s a killer,” a CIA chief executive says, but she’s not that kind of killer.

When she first visits a CIA “black site” in Pakistan, she is silent and shocked to witness a CIA agent torture an al-Qaeda detainee by waterboarding, a form of torture in which water is poured over cloth covering the face causing the person to experience the sensation of drowning. Maya observes with her arms across her chest, flinching constantly as most anyone else would. There is a lot of controversy about the use of torture and its effectiveness throughout “Zero Dark Thirty.”

The CIA agent constantly calls the detainee “bro” and promises “If you lie to me, I will hurt you.” In the torture chamber, the detainee begs Maya for mercy, she refuses, and this sets the tone for her as a tough and relentless character as well as the movie’s attitude toward torture. Some critics have found the torture sequences as unnecessary and horrible, but these scenes explain to audience how some information  — though found improperly — opens the doors to important new information.

The main question that everyone is interested in is how was Bin Laden found? “Zero Dark Thirty” shows that the mission was accomplished by torturing detainees, collecting evidence from dossiers, videos, recorded phone calls and by tailing messengers. “Zero Dark Thirty” story incorporates more famous history such as a brief sequence of the 2005 London bombings which are unbearably tense, and protests around Pakistan that revolved around U.S. drone strikes. For people who barely have knowledge about CIA history and events that occurred in the Middle East, there are plenty surprises that leave viewers in suspense.

The 25-minute scene the everyone has been expecting from “Zero Dark Thirty” comes at the end of the nearly three-hour film. Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad is recreated for the raid which was conducted by The Navy known as Seal Team Six. The raid is a spectacularly tense and realistic scene. The final scene is exciting and breathtaking especially as the Navy Seals are clearing rooms and the audience is waiting in anticipation for the reveal of “Geronimo,” aka Osama Bin Laden. The film does an amazing job in showing the audience the 10-year hunt to kill one of the world’s most dangerous men.

“Zero Dark Thirty” is an all around spectacular and tense movie that gives appreciation to the men and women who spent 10 years searching for the man behind the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Although the torture scenes may be uncomfortable to watch and the language is profane, this movie is a excellent story in describing the success of the operation.