Zero Dark Thirty

Author: Dr. Mandar V. Bichu


Zero Dark Thirty
Year: 2012
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke

On September 9, 2001, the whole world watched in horror as New York’s World Trade Centre twin-towers collapsed one after the other, just like decks of cards. This most deadly attack on American soil was executed by the terrorist outfit Al Qaida. CIA mounted a massive global manhunt in order to bring the perpetrators to justice; particularly focusing on Osama Bin Laden, the Saudi-born militant cleric who over the years had come to be identified as the face of Al Qaida’s all pervasive terror network. It took CIA almost ten years and billions of dollars but they finally tracked down the man hiding in Pakistan. On May 2, 2011, Osama Bin Laden was shot down in the dead of the night in a daring helicopter raid.

Zero Dark Thirty is a riveting and provocative story of this manhunt. It is strongly reminiscent of the film Munich, which told the story of a similar covert manhunt organized by Israeli spy-agency Mossad to execute the terrorists who had killed Israeli athletes during 1972 Munich Olympics.

Zero Dark Thirty is also a story of a callow CIA lady-recruit (Jessica Chastain); it starts off with her gut-churning introduction to the inhuman interrogation of a terror detainee and proceeds to show how the squeamish newcomer gradually adapted and transformed into one of the toughest CIA analysts. A survivor of a hotel bombing; a survivor of a terrorist gun-attack ; it was this lady whose single-minded obsession about a terrorist, thought to be Bin Laden’s personal courier, finally got that vital lead to locate the Al Qaida Chief’s hideout. It was this lady who put her neck on the line and persuaded the reluctant authorities to conduct a raid, even when the available intelligence was at best suggestive.

Unlike the Oscar-winning Argo, yet another CIA covert operation story, Zero Dark Thirty doesn’t have the luxury of a feel-good drama for a story. It is more about guts and gore, than glory. The detainee camps; merciless interrogations; suicide bombings; deaths of friends; bureaucratic tangles; blatant bribes; satellite snooping; on-street stakeouts; political dillydallying; the middle-of-the-night seal raid; the execution and the emptiness afterwards…Zero Dark Thirty is a grim film. It shows us terrorism and counter-terrorism from a close range and proves one thing for sure – they both have hideous faces!

Watch it for Kathryn Bigelow’s gritty direction and Jessica Chastain’s life-like portrayal. Also, watch it just to understand one of the most controversial secret missions of our times.

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