Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Zero Dark Thrity" (2012)

If “The Hurt Locker” was a “meandering slice of life,” Kathryn Bigelow’s latest is similar in that it offers—instead of a story—an exercise in cherry-picking the major events of the war on terror to create a fictionalized account. At two and a half hours, it is a relatively short summary of one (made up) person’s tedious study of interviews, interrogations, and speculations. Fortunately for the viewers, this person’s initial hunch turns out to be right and we get an account with a resolution. Before OBL was killed in real life, this was going to be a movie about the failure to find him.

The film itself is fairly neutral as evidenced by people on both sides of the political spectrum being bothered by it. It is really less about the political conversation some want to insert it into and more about a study of obsession. The final image of this film is not the success of the mission, but the empty future of a person who has completed the only thing that has ever given her life meaning. This seems to be something that preoccupies Bigelow. In “The Hurt Locker” she had the protagonist reject “normal” life and return to the front. Here Maya does not have that option. Her quest was to see one man die and he is dead.

What one could possibly call fascinating about “Zero Dark Thirty” is the way that these obsessions—on national and ideological levels—impact so many lives. The way obsession and evil in this fallen world are so tied into each other. We see hatred for the west drive men to die in an effort to kill people for living how they wish. We see western the response to avoid further attacks drive people to torture and abuse people for (hopefully valid) information. We see unarmed men and women killed in front of their children. There is no argument that some of those killed are very evil people. It is still jarring to see a soldier shoot a mother and then turn to the crying, hysterical, terrified kids and say “it’s OK.”

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