“Zero Dark Thirty”

“Zero Dark Thirty,” a riveting and humanized depiction of the mission to capture Osama bin Laden, is not just a great movie; it is one of the most significant films of our generation. The film, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, award winning director of “The Hurt Locker,” documents one of the most well-known manhunts in human history, while focusing on the unrenowned and brutally determined CIA agents carrying out their mission.

As the movie started, the lights dimmed, the auditorium became very still, and no one spoke. While the screen remained pitch black, 911 calls echoed throughout the theater. The voices belonged to the people trapped in the World Trade Centers on September 11, 2001. After the poignant voices diminished, the film swept us away to 2003, and introduced us to Maya, played brilliantly by Jessica Chastain, a CIA agent who has known nothing but the pursuit of terrorists. Chastain portrays her character perfectly, balancing the often transparent line between mental instability and fierce determination.

However, the introduction to Maya and fellow CIA field agents is intertwined with the most difficult and controversial aspect of the film: torture. Although the arduousness surrounding the subject is inevitable, Bigelow handled the pressure well. Some critics say that she portrayed an effectiveness to torture that is really nonexistent; however, in the movie, the information the agents extracted from tortured subjects rarely proved to be helpful.  One would have to be slightly deluded to not recognize the use of torture during this time period, and despite critical backlash, I believe that Bigelow did not unfairly glorify torture. Instead, she depicted a dark practice in a calculated and realistic manner. Not to do so would have been dishonest.

Once I moved past the torture and harsh interrogations, I began to connect with a mission that has not been given much human depth. Maya endures the loss of friends in bombings that most Americans have only watched on CNN.  She deals with the isolation and resistance involved with the pursuit of her main target, Abu Ahmed. Most importantly, we are shown the tears Maya sheds after realizing that after a life submerged in the revenge business, she doesn’t know where to go after it’s all over.

All deep thought and reflection aside, “Zero Dark Thirty” is a gripping spy thriller, and almost any action film junkie will enjoy every tense minute. However, I watched the 9/11 attacks on the news with my babysitter after preschool. I grew up in a decade bombarded by terrorist atrocities and in a nation dedicated to a war on terrorism. When a film like this comes along and adds humanity and depth to such an undisclosed chapter in history, there is no doubt that it will resonate with a generation.