Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Zero Dark Thirty (2013) Review by Shivom Oza – Half-baked Real-life Drama

3/5 Stars

9/11/2001 is a forgettable date. There’s no particular emotion that you can attach to this event. The first real feeling of being ‘unsafe’ crept into our consciousness when the most powerful country in the world was attacked by a bunch of terrorists and almost brought down to its knees.

Barely a few days after 9/11, a gruesome face was revealed to the world. That face was supposed to be responsible for the terrorist strikes, which brought down the World Trade Centre twin towers and took over 3000 lives. Soon, the face became synonymous with everything evil in the world. He became the ‘mascot’, so to speak, for terrorism. It was none other than the Al Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden. The US called for his head and began a mission to hunt the man down and eliminate him. In this film, the team, which is hunting down the most dreaded terrorist in the world, is spearheaded (although not initially) by Maya (Jessica Chastain). Other CIA persons include Dan (Jason Clarke), Joseph Bradley (Kyle Chandler) and Jessica (Jennifer Ehle). The film concentrates on the major events that lead to the killing of Osama in May 2011. In the interim, we are shown how the CIA goes about doing their job, which includes interrogation, building a good network in a foreign country, keeping an eye out for every possible clue and identifying connections between statements given by criminals/terrorists. It is a tough job, and the film shows it as it is. However, what the audiences are made to miss out on is proper explanation about every clue that the CIA gets in its run-up to finding Bin Laden. Names are thrown in, major terrorist strikes such as the 2005 London bombing and the Marriott Hotel blast among others are featured, more names are thrown in, assassination attempts are made on the CIA officers and more names are thrown in. This entire Osama manhunt is an absolutely brilliant subject to capture on celluloid. However, trying to fit in 8 years into an hour-and-half (regarding the first half of the film) is an impossible job. If one wishes to educate the viewer, more information should be dispensed through the work of art (film, book anything!). Here, it’s just one random event followed by another and suddenly, voila! We found Bin Laden’s carrier! YOU could have, but how do WE know? The main purpose for anyone to watch this particular film would be, besides being entertained, to actually know about how the US went about looking for the Al Qaeda leader. Sadly, it is not clear enough. 

The second-half, in comparison, is way more superior, owing to the fact that this section only covers a year or so in the lead-up to the final attack. It’s much more understandabe, swift-paced and follows a linear path (as all real-life based films should, ideally!). The actual mission ‘Operation Geronimo’ is definitely going to keep you on the edge of your seats. The final 30 minutes of the film are gripping and filled with emotionally-charged moments. As far as the performances go, everybody in the cast has done a fine job. Chastain has delivered a brilliant performance. However, it is not the best of the year. The locations could have been a huge problem. All the ‘Pakistan’ areas shown in the film were actually shot in Chandigarh, India. The locations have been perfectly altered to be made to look like they are cities in Pakistan. There are a few blips, such as shops bearing Hindu names and cars of Indian-make, but you can’t pan them down for everything. Their efforts to convert a small section of Chandigarh into Pakistan are commendable.

The screenplay, as already pointed out, bears several flaws. This film could have actually been a documentary series. The subject, as already mentioned, is first-rate and the story deserves to be told in a truthful, elaborate manner. 'Zero Dark Thirty' can be watched for entertainment. However, to know what actually happened, start looking for books and articles. Kathryn Bigelow, the director, has made a half-baked real-life drama. It is highly unsurprising that she hasn't bagged an Oscar nomination for Best Direction.

Just a thought - Don't believe the solution to terrorism lies in capital punishments, air raids, counter bombings, revenge and retribution. Let’s give peace a chance, till they don’t start doing the same.

Shivom Oza

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