Directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
Written by Mark Boal.
With Zero Dark Thirty I will start with what now seems to be the easy part of the conversation, or should be, or it never is, the film itself. To me, first and foremost, I think it is a really solid, consistent film. On the other hand, the other part of the conversation is the subject matter. And it is one of the reasons why I was so curious about this film. I love it, or better, I’m really intrigued by it. I’m curious because it is so demanding. Whether I have a particular stand on either sides of the many questions about this world, it is really intriguing how the world develops around us. How we are just in this little bubble and there are some many other dangerous, crazy, outrageous bubbles. It makes me aware and question many things; it gives me perspectives at different matters. And it is mostly a fucked situation, ultimately a fucked up world. I wished I was more political, I wished I knew more. Oh, yes, I am talking about terrorism.
The film starts at the day eleven of September 2001. This is clearly the most American film you could get, but on its reverse, it is actually quite the contrary, it is a matter that crosses continents and should reach most of us and it does reach most of us. But I sure believe it touches the American citizen in a whole different level.
A lot of things were going through my mind while watching the increasingly neurotic, conflicting and dangerous world of those who were and are involved in the manhunt of Al-Qaeda people.
“Even the context is pro-torture”, some defend. “The film creates the strong impression that the enhanced interrogation techniques that were part of our former detention and interrogation program were the key to finding Bin Ladin.” I must emphasize how opposite were and are my thoughts towards these people’s beliefs. Here’s what’s been so clear to me and that is why I found the whole controversy, the continuing persecution of the film so unfair, even appalling. By showing torture towards members of Al-Qaeda, Bigelow and Boal are able to achieve various points. First of all, it is just hard to watch, it’s horrifying, it’s ultimately utterly uncomfortable. It doesn’t even crosses my mind this should be done, because not only is inhuman, it could instead lead to endless misleading, because the tortured men would say whatever they needed to say so they would stop the punishment, even if it wasn’t true. Other reasons why this film is so clear to me how it isn’t pro torture is when the agents decide to mislead one of their terrorists, with a nice meal outside in the open, giving him even a cigar; this is when he actually gives the crucial information. And he was not being crucified for it, even though he was deprived from food and sleep and even if he was still threatened they would take him back to torture. And if you read Michael Moore’s letter in defense of the film he also suggests that the audience actually feels sorry for the terrorists, the evil guys indeed. It does make sense. Even the male character, Dan, the guy torturing the Al-Qaeda members, quits his job. But indeed, they did torture people and they did got information from it, some of it was right, but I would say the majority wasn’t. Mostly, they couldn’t know. And let’s also mention that they eventually stop the torture.
I must say I absolutely loved, I thought it was the most accomplished thirty minutes I’ve seen in film this year, from the moment the team receives the call to go into the infamous Bin Laden compound. From the moment Maya gets the call the mission will follow through that night, it’s such a solid, intriguing, nerve wrecking moment. My hurt was pumping, not with excitement but suspense and terror, even though we all know the outcome. To me, I found so interesting and ultimately good how they told this story. And I also feel like it is pretty accurate. Maya is so cold. The entire approach it’s cold. And that’s exactly how I feel about the whole thing. That’s how I felt the moment they get Bin Laden. It’s just harsh. Not for once I was thinking about revenge or justice. And yes I’m not American. But I was more concerned about the whole world of terrorism. What I was really thinking, CONTRARY to those who are slamming the film for being pro torture and saying that makes people think that torture made them get Bin Laden, was how this world works, I was thinking the number of people involved, thinking about the ones who were in the field looking for that dude, the courier in the cell phone, the assistant girl who finds some crucial files lost randomly somewhere in Washington, it’s the number of circumstances, and resistance and sometimes luck that makes things go.
When the SEAL team was entering the compound, I was thinking I was probably sleeping deeply, in my comfortable bed, while the team was going in the helicopters and do their work and kill those people. Obviously, we have to have different feelings from an American citizen, but like my friend watching the film with me, we both remember vividly the entire September 11 day. We remember how we felted about it, I confessed about the really strange and frightening feeling when I was and I am in the presence of Arabic people. I just can’t control it.
Even if it is fiction, even if this version isn’t exactly what happened there, this film not only asks a lot of questions it also brings, as we could all ‘hear’, questions of where a film stands in the society, what’s his place. A film is a fiction and its purpose it’s to entertain, there has to be a structure so it entertains us.
I want to reach for every word of praise for Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s work and their team into Zero Dark Thirty. I want to praise their tenacity, their bravery, their incredible and admiring integrity. I want to not only praise but thank them for bringing this unique, cold hearted, inspiring woman as the protagonist we don’t know. Maya isn’t perfect, Maya doesn’t want you to care about her, because she doesn’t care much about her either, she cares about completing her mission. She was never afraid of confronting her superiors, mainly men. She clearly didn’t care if everyone thought she was a pain in the ass, she didn’t care if people didn’t like her. This is not only a rarely of a character, but an even rarity of a female character. And like my friend said, Jessica Chastain was the right choice because she seems to be the kind of actress that works just greatly doing a stubborn, tough cold hearted woman but also playing a character of…everyone else. I think you can see that in the twenty films she had last year.
One of the obvious conclusions is that the controversy will go on for a long period of time, even though the fever ia starting to slow down. But I do hope that when people look back, and read “tweets”, reviews, letters, calling Bigelow a fascist, that her film is a crime, they will immediately think how ridiculous people are. Like how ridiculous was reading many tweets with the same expression “There’s a reason why it is called the white house”, right before the election period, right before Barack Obama was re-elected. It’s primarily a reminder that sometimes when people focus on the wrong side of the debates, when people wrongly deviate themselves from what they really should be focusing on, like when Bill Clinton was trying to ‘catch’ Bin Laden back in 98 but the media and ‘others’, were instead too invested in his privacy.
I had a terrible nightmare long before I saw Zero Dark Thirty, basically everyone died in the most terrifying ways. Now I dream again, but because of this unsettling controversy. I can’t stop thinking how ridiculous this has been, I don’t think I added that much but I’m relieved I said what I wanted to say.