The war-time, high-octane violence in Kathryn Bigelow’s newest film “Zero-Dark Thirty” is kept to a minimum. In it’s place are the meticulous applications of torture in a modern world and the obsessive, technological age of the military intelligence complex. “More West Wing than Black Hawk Down,” said another audience member a few seats over. Almost with a tone of disappointment.
“Zero-Dark Thirty” places audience members in the globe-trekking hunt by “straight-out of highschool” intelligence agent Maya (Jessica Chastain). The film follows Maya’s progression from newbie torture assistant to the lead--oftentimes lone--crusader in the manhunt for UBL, or as most know him, Osama Bin Laden.
Bigelow guides the audience through a tour of psychological trauma and tension by giving a retelling of every major terrorist attack on the ‘Western World’ since September 11, 2001. Viewers are allowed to linger in the dark for a minute, only hearing phone calls and transmissions of the people edified into public history as some of this country’s most innocent victims--then mixes real-news footage with cinematic recreation that leads to an unsettling review of the past decade of global politics.
All of this is through the ever-aging, ever-tiring, ever-obsessed eyes of Maya, whom the camera rarely leaves. It isn’t hard to draw comparisons from her transformation and the audience which had been hurt, confused, then whipped into a frenzy over two land wars. Maya voluntarily witnesses almost every form of torture used in modern-day interrogation within first 20 minutes of the film, graphically--though it only serves to steel her resolve.
That isn’t to say Bigelow was attempting a rail against torture, or it’s effectiveness. In an article for the New Yorker, screenplay writer Mark Boal and Bigelow simply stated “it’s a movie, not a documentary” and “the film doesn’t have an agenda, it doesn’t judge.”
While eschewing a stance on torture might be necessary for a film that depicts the hunt for one of the U.S’s greatest villians, the theme of the country’s addiction to war has carried from “The Hurt Locker,” shown by Maya’s progressively more embedded appearance and vigor; the willingness and determination to “finish the job.”
Thematically, it was also awkwardly affirmed by the guys in the back row that whispered “oh fuck yes” whenever one of the Navy SEALS fondled a high-tech murder-gadget or shot someone in the face.
|Or maybe I am missing the point and America is just full of bad-ass mother-fuckers like Jessica Chantai.|