Tuesday, February 05, 2013

"Zero Dark Thirty" (2012) - Movie Review

The behaviour of obsession has a thin line of separation between insanity and determination. In this where Maya (Jessica Chastain) stands in “Zero Dark Thirty” is answered by how Osama Bin Laden was hunted and killed. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow carries this onus of handling this fresh off the pot story with her critical acclaim of “The Hurt Locker” fulfills it in her own accord. With such a story that can be withered down into overblown patriotism and righteousness, Bigelow finds a personal story than a political one. Yet it is so devoid of information on Maya.

The film chronicles the hunt but it is unlike one would expect. It is viewed through one woman’s single minded determination on finding this man. We see her as the young talent with nothing stopping her lands into the CIA force in a remote unknown location for interrogation with her colleague Dan (Jason Clarke). We see the water boarding in its true form that has been not dealt with any other film. Maya is queasy about this and one would expect her to be sympathetic or question this, Bigelow provides a stunning reality. She is there for the job and this is it. There is no right or wrong but the job that was assigned or ordered to her is done. If one perceives this as pro-torture, yes, the government at that point allowed this but blaming Bigelow for the portrayal seems silly.

The film unflinchingly takes this story into a raw docudrama not allowing emotions. It is an exercise for Maya. Is it a passion or does she enjoys the thrill? We do not know. All we know is she wants to reach the end of the investigation in pinning this man. There is no hint of her personal emotion in it. She goes through the details and begins to look for anything. Every word from the people they catch are analyzed, doubted, re-doubted and they take what they think and execute in a sense of gamble. In a way every move is a gamble. Fragments of information that are provided under extreme circumstances that carry nothing but desperation are used to link something or someone. It can only be imagined how many routes that they took and how many times they had to come back to the drawing board only to revamp the whole process to another ordeal.

In this film that exhausts you with the manner it navigates as there are smallest remains of human connection but rightfully so. The politics in this investigation are not punctuated on the procedure rather it punctuates on Maya’s restlessness. When Maya enters the team in Pakistan, there is a sense of the new bee acting too fast and too hasty for her role which is slightly shown in the smiling disapproval of her colleague Jessica (Jennifer Ehle) before it is discarded for the importance of the story. Then we come back again to see how the times have made them good friends. Things like those are what are surprisingly effective in giving minute semblance of humanity to the otherwise machine like Maya.

Jessica Chastain has been praised highly for her portrayal as Maya and in all honesty she does not have much to do than to follow the clinical script of Mark Boal. There is no denial in her pitch perfect performance but this film is about the details. You seem to see so many but are provided very little in term of information. The breaks they make which are again taken forward by presumptions, guesses and gamble are nothing short of the realism the actual events have unfurled. The way in which Maya figures out the idea of look alike brothers and how they narrow down the location of the compound but tracking cell phone signal are the high energetic scene which are grounded in reality.

The supporting roles are provided in snippets which spurs raw comedy. You cannot stop smirking when Mark Duplass as CIA analyst Steve sarcastically repeats what Maya told in her confidence in finding the location to a roomful of higher CIA directors. And how Chris Pratt as one of US Navy Seals explains his choice of music before he goes for the raid. Bigelow finds a unique tone in those characters that offers even a realistic touch to the sense of humour. Jason Clarke and Jessica Ehle are the predominant characters who are as Dan and Jessica respectively comes forth to the help of Maya when she needs it. Then there is Kyle Chandler as Joseph Bradley, CIA Islamabad Station Chief who is both appreciative and wary of Maya’s obsession.

But the completion of the film’s success is how the raid is presented. With the first person effect of greenish night vision goggle painted over the screen, that is the most thrilling action sequence I have seen in a long time. To the authenticity of the film on representing the actual events, all I can say is there is no proof or possibility of recreating this but in that 15 minutes of presentation, I was in and I was there and I was absorbed as a viewer on the believability of it.

In all this, Maya’s determination is rewarded and what can you make of it is of your own. I am glad this was not made into a political statement nor as an undercurrent for bigger things. It does but those are in background rather than front line material. Whether killing Bin Laden brought justice is something the film leaves you with or what did it bring Maya? It is a completion of a project in a different plane of emotion for her. For us looking for justice for the actions this man masterminded, we are confused because time does crazy things and you do not know how to react to this. For an exercise that is provided with very little emotion, it tells a lot when it ends with teardrops.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting take on the movie Ashok. Maya definitely plays a key role in the movie and I really did wonder about her back-story. But there isn't one. Did you ever research on how close to reality this movie is? It would be interesting to draw parallels to CIA's account of the capture and killing of Bin Laden.
I found the torture techniques quite distressful, but can only imagine that things were even worse in reality.
The last 1/2 hour or so of the movie was captivating, even though we all know what happens, it was incredible to watch it.
Hurt Locker was a rubbish film, this is definitely a huge comeback for Bigelow in my opinion. But of course, we don't always agree on movies now do we?