Yes, my hometown of Knoxville continues to have one enterprising weather system after another in my least favorite month of the year: January.
We have had 75 degrees, the freaky and fast-moving snowstorm that proved that some Knoxvillians can indeed drive in snow–and others cannot, and now we have an ice storm. Next week it is supposed to be near 70 again. Nonetheless, we soldier on.
Which brings me to an excellent movie I saw last night, director Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. I read the news reports and reviews mentioning how much time the film devotes to depiction of torture in its first 40 or so minutes. I cannot confirm how long the movie cut back and forth between various information extraction methods, but I do agree that the filmmakers could have gotten their point across in less time. And under no circumstances do I enjoy watching torture in movies or TV. However, the film is a testament to
the strong women and men who work in secret to hunt down terrorists and terrorist networks. The main character, Maya, is based on an actual CIA agent who still works undercover somewhere in the world. She is the agent who we are told successfully located Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
As portrayed by Jessica Chastain, Maya puts me in the mind of Kathryn Bigelow herself: intelligent, intuitive, tough, completely focused, uncompromising, unconcerned with staying within a typically female role, and unafraid of taking on the desk jockeys and the “suits” that get in her way.
While a few of Maya’s colleagues agreed with her hunch that bin Laden was near an urban center to keep in contact with his followers, apparently the majority believed he was in a cave somewhere, possibly already dead, and she had come off the rails in her single-minded search to find him.
Sidebar comment: we had a blast in the movie identifying actors who pop up in the film. It is always a delight to see John Barrowman, the wonderful Captain Jack Harkness on TV’s Torchwood and Dr. Who, as well as screenwriter/director/actor Mark Duplass who starred in one of the best movies of 2012 Safety Not Guaranteed. We recognized Kyle Chandler, who plays Islamabad’s CIA station chief, from his role as President Carter’s chief of staff Hamilton Jordan in Ben Affleck’s well-done 2012 movie Argo. In a more pivotal role as a key CIA agent, Jennifer Ehle came first to my notice for playing Elizabeth Bennett in the 1995 miniseries Pride and Prejudice. The movie displays great acting throughout.
Bigelow did not overplay her hand in her direction; she did not fall back on the tired “running away from fire at the last moment” scenes found in most movies. She told the story of the mission almost as if it was in real time, with the viewer traveling along with the-best-of-the-best U.S. Navy Seals who went into Pakistan by helicopter to find and kill bin Laden. It was fascinating to see how they worked together with amazing precision and were seemingly ready for any eventuality.
The movie shows the mission’s prime objective as completely successful, and the young CIA agent’s instincts were right on target. Yet I am confident the movie accurately illustrates the complex feelings Maya must have felt after she achieved her decade’s-long search: relief and satisfaction at having achieved retribution for the lives of her colleagues and fellow Americans who died at the hands of al Qaeda terrorists and ensured that the man himself could do no more harm. I imagine she had a now-what feeling of loss that the ten-year search had become the reason for her existence, marinated with the sadness for the lives lost, and knowing there are always more threats to battle.
I can quibble with the amount of time devoted to torture at the first of the movie, but Zero Dark Thirty is easily one of the best films of 2012. Kathryn Bigelow should have been nominated for Best Director by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She more than deserves the kudos she has received during her career for directing action movies and war films, genres usually attempted only by male directors.
Zero Dark Thirty enters the dark soul of terrorism and does not flinch at the complex issues involved. As The Huffington Post notes today in Michael Moore’s ringing defense of the movie, “Zero Dark Thirty–a movie made by a woman (Kathryn Bigelow), produced by a woman (Megan Ellison), distributed by a woman (Amy Pascal, the co-chairman of Sony Pictures), and starring a woman (Jessica Chastain–is really about how an agency of mostly men are dismissive of a woman who is on the right path to finding bin Laden. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-moore/zero-dark-thirty-torture_b_2548079.html
Anna – 1/25/2013