Zero Dark Thirty is an amazing movie, you guys. It was horrifying and I immediately regretted watching it on a night when I still had other tasks to accomplish, but those things are not mutually exclusive to it being amazing, because it was.
Obviously the plot of the movie is not a secret. It’s a true story about the decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden, so unless you also have been living in Abottabad for the last ten years with no contact with the outside world, you know how it ends. You also probably know how it starts — with September 11th. You sit in a darkened theater and hear 911 calls from the towers. That’s how the movie starts. It’s…intense, and it doesn’t let up from there.
You’ve probably heard some things about the movie — namely that it glorfies torture and that Jessica Chastain sucks. I heard those things going into it, and I have to tell you that I disagree with both. First of all, Jessica was great. She was emotional and restrained and tortured and a real person, all at once. She is a cog within the vast system of the CIA, and her voice is not as important as it should be, given her skillset. With the benefit of hindsight, we know that she’s correct in her instincts and her impulses, so when she’s ignored by her superiors and has to forge doggedly ahead on her own, it’s even more frustrating, but she pulls it off impressively. I’m not sure that what I’m saying will make sense — but she’s so good that you forget she’s beautiful. People in real human life are not that attractive and in a lesser actor it could be distracting, but she makes the role so full and whole that you stop seeing her beauty. I found myself watching her hands a lot. I don’t know. That’s the best compliment I can give an actor, but it’s hard for me to explain.
As far as the torture: I don’t think it’s glorified, I think it’s shown. As human beings, I think sometimes it can be hard for us to connect to things without seeing them — I know that’s the case for myself, at least — and as much as I’ve read about water-boarding and other (formerly? currently? who knows) pseudo-legal forms of interrogation, it’s something different to see it on screen. What I will say is that nobody likes doing it. Even Dan, the guy who’s best at it, played by Jason Clarke, has to leave the CIA because it eats away at him. It’s rarely successful, even in the movie, but they do get one key piece of information out of it, without which, if it truly was a true story, they wouldn’t have found bin Laden. And I don’t know how I feel about that.
My stance on torture walking out of the theater was the same as my stance on torture walking into the theater, but I spent a lot of the time in between thinking about it, and that’s the ideal situation for me with a movie like this. It wasn’t an opinion, it was a viewpoint. There was no commentary, there was just action. Those people feel this way, and they’re behaving accordingly, sometimes effectively, and sometimes not. Whether you agree with them or not, you probably went home and got on Wikipedia, so let’s give them an Oscar just for that.