THE political brouhaha that continues to dog Kathryn Bigelow’s dramatisation of the hunt for Osama bin Laden might have cost her an Oscar nomination.
Her omission from the Best Director race, which she won three years ago with The Hurt Locker, could be a kneejerk reaction to outspoken US senators who have lambasted Zero Dark Thirty’s depiction of CIA-sanctioned torture.
The film makes clear everything in Mark Boal’s script is “based on first-hand accounts of actual events“.
Harrowing scenes of interrogation behind closed doors pose timely questions about the extraction of information during the war against terror.
Zero Dark Thirty opens in total darkness with a soundscape of emotionally wrought telephone calls and emergency service broadcasts from September 11, 2001.
Two years later, ballsy CIA officer Maya (Jessica Chastain) accepts a posting to Islamabad. She imposes herself on the team, which initially creates friction with colleagues Jessica (Jennifer Ehle), Larry (Edgar Ramirez) and Steve (Mark Duplass).
Over the next eight years, including a chilling recreation of the 2005 suicide attacks on London, Maya dedicates her life to every scrap of intelligence which might lead her to bin Laden.
Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti (Tushaar Mehra), who reportedly operates as bin Laden’s courier, becomes her focus and the CIA tracks him to a compound in Abbottabad.
Maya is certain she has found bin Laden but her superiors are cautious.
Taking its title from the time Navy Seals stormed the compound in Pakistan, Zero Dark Thirty replays recent history through the eyes of Chastain’s tenacious operative. It is mesmerising.
During the climatic night-time raid, which is shot in part through night-vision goggles, the tension tightens with each passing minute.