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January 16, 2013     The Sun Paper
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Wednesday, January 16, 2013, The Sun 5 At the Movies 'Zero Dark Thirty' documents riveting hunt for bin Laden By lan Black Special to The Sun President Obama an- nounced to the American pub- lic that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a raid by Navy Seals at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May I, 2011. This event had been pre- ceded by a nine and a half year manhunt for the leader of al Qaeda, who had masterminded the Sept. I 1 terrorist attacks. The hunt for Osama bin Laden was wrought with setbacks, delays and lots of misinforma- tion. Kathryn Bigelow, the di- rector of the Best Picture win- ning "The Hurt Locker," aimed to make a film about the hunt and eventual location and killing of bin Laden, and made it she did. "Zero Dark Thirty" is a fictional account of the events, based on the true story. Some of the characters in this film were invented for the purposes of the story and oth- ers are based on real people. The film finally released wide this week, following several weeks of limited release in major cities and the an- nouncement of it being nomi- nated for Best Picture, not that most people didn't see that coming. "Zero Dark Thirty" covers the nine-year period from 2001 to 2011 during which the manhunt for bin Laden took place. This is seen from the perspective of Maya (Jessica Chastain), a CIA analyst re- cruited straight out of high school, who is sent to Pakistan in 2001. Here she observes the torture and interrogation of a detainee. However, her deduc- tive talents eventually help in tricking the prison into reveal- ing the name of one of Osama bin Laden's couriers, a man she becomes convinced is the key to finding bin Laden him- self. The story follows her through the years as she be- comes more hardened by her job, going from balking at the use of torture to ordering it her- self as she becomes more and more obsessed with finding her target. All of this eventually leads to the location and elimi- nation of Osama bin Laden himself. "Zero Dark Thirty" is a hard film to describe in brief. It's certainly apparent that the film is highly culturally sig- nificant and most likely in- credibly accurate, especially the raid scene at the end of the film. However, it's worth pointing out that a nine-year manhunt isn't necessarily go- ing to be the most gripping cinema you've ever seen. There a lot of talking and in- formation, sometimes at a very rapid and hard-to-follow pace. Sadly, real life intelligence gathering isn't like "Home- land." There isn't a ton ofac- tion, or twists and this film certainly does not focus on personal drama. Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal clearly made a conscious decision to make something as realistic as possible here. Unfortunately, what this film gains in realism, it loses in entertainment. Now, I'm not advocating for a bunch of shooting and ex- plosions here. I think the area "Zero Dark Thirty" was truly lacking in was supporting characters. There are plenty of characters in this film played by fine actors like Jason Clarke, Harold Perrineau, Kyle Chandler or even Mark Duplass who could have had much larger roles in this film and given Jessica Chastain someone to bounce offof, but they don't. These characters show up briefly and then just kind of leave after they give the heroine the information she needs for the next plot point. The result is a loss of human connection. Jessica Chastain tries to carry this film alone. She re- ally does. In truth, though, she needed back up. Even the best actor or actress needs the help of good supporting actors and characters. This was what "The Hurt Locker" did right. It had that personal connec- tion. You knew the characters. You liked them. This film does not have that level of connection because it did not have enough in the way of prominent supporting roles. Banter is how you make a movie where people have to talk a lot interesting and en- tertaining. They could have done that, but instead they went for something solitary and introspective and it just didn't work as well. "Zero Dark Thirty" is inter- esting from a historical per- spective. It's certainly worth watching for the accuracy of the events portrayed in a sig- nificant time in American his- tory. It even won the box of- rice this weekend with an as- tounding $24 million, a huge haul for a very long, very ce- rebral film. Jessica Chastain does as fine as anyone could have asked with what she was given and more. She was certainly an interesting character. I just wish she'd gotten more help from the supporting cast to re- ally shine. Out of all the best picture nominees I have seen thus far, this film is probably the weakest all around, but that certainly doesn't make it a bad film. I've seen Best Pic- ture nominees worse than this. I've seen winners worse than this. 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