I’m the Motherfucker that found this place, sir.
– CIA operative Maya tells her boss, the agency’s director after Osama bin Laden’s hideout is traced to a compound in Abbottabad (Pakistan)
It was the longest decade in American history.
Also the most painful, humiliating, frustrating decade.
The time between the 9/11 attacks and the early morning of May 2, 2011 when the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the terror strikes on America, ended with his death at the hands of American soldiers.
Working on a brilliant script by Mark Boal, Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow (of Hurt Locker fame) has turned out a gripping, tightly edited entertainer in Zero Dark Thirty.
Supposedly based on first hand accounts of key U.S. military personnel and CIA agents involved, Zero Dark Thirty is the highly engaging account of the most expensive manhunt ever launched.
Nearly 3,000 people perished on American soil and the twin towers, a symbol of American might and soaring reach, collapsed in New York City on September 11, 2001.
But the crafty quarry Osama bin Laden had vanished and proved remarkably elusive even in the face of a handsome $25 million reward on his head.
The trail had gone cold in Afghanistan.
Pakistan yielded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and no more.
Al Qaeda was staging more attacks in the West and a new administration headed by Barack Obama had come to power in Washington.
The CIA continued to throw countless dollars and agents in a futile search for the elusive terrorist, believed to be hiding in Afghanistan or neighboring Pakistan.
Frustration was boiling over.
Into this tense environment, a newly arrived CIA operative Maya walks into the agency’s weary station in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Single-minded, with no social life, a career focused on bin Laden and a brash readiness to take on her bosses, Maya provides the crucial breakthrough that leads ultimately to Osama bin Laden’s lair in Abbottabad and his tryst with 72-virgins in heaven.
But not before more bombings and betrayals claim many more lives, including that of Maya’s CIA colleagues.
Jessica Chastain plays Maya with remarkable élan and solid control.
Maya’s confrontation with her boss, the CIA station chief over getting more resources was one of the highlights of the film for us and others sitting nearby.
Of course, a manhunt for a terrorist like Osama has several angles and countless contributors.
But Kathryn Bigelow cleverly turns the cinematic spotlight on Maya and brings her center stage.
Maya is based on a CIA agent in her 30s whose identity remains a secret, at least to civilians.
Other characters in the film have short roles but James Gandolfini of Sopranos TV series fame leaves an impact in a brief role as the CIA Director.
Torture – Storm in a Tea Cup
Much has been made of the depiction of torture in the film.
Water-boarding, chaining, savagely beating and humiliating prisoners (by stripping them of their clothes in front of Maya) are shown in unsparing detail.
But what’s the big deal?
I just don’t understand the brouhaha over all these tactics.
There are no rules of engagement in war, particularly against folks like Osama bin Laden.
Get over it.
If you’re looking for an Indian connection to the movie, I’ve got more than one for you.
Ricky Sekhon, a Brit of Indian origin, plays Osama bin Laden.
Alas, his is a tiny, insignificant role.
By the way, parts of Zero Dark Thirty were filmed in the North Indian city of Chandigarh, standing in for Abbottabad.
Zero Dark Thirty neatly brings out Pakistan as a barbarous, savage land with trigger-happy suicide bombers and zealous anti-American crackpots.
The Paki Army also come across as a clueless outfit under whose sleeping eyes the Americans fly in from a base in nearby Jalalabad and attack Osama’s compound in the wee hours of May 2, 2011.
The film skims over the violent underpinnings of Islam that provides fodder to the ‘believers,’ exhorts them to Jihad and nurtures terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya and parts of Northern Africa and Southeast Asia.
Sadly, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal take the ‘safe road’ here.
SearchIndia.com is maha thrilled to recommend Zero Dark Thirty to all lovers of good cinema.
The film is a rare instance of a contemporary real life story brought to the big screen in remarkable fashion.
Don’t count me among the surprised if Zero Dark Thirty goes on to win a bunch of Oscars (best original screenplay to Mark Boal for sure) at the 85th Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles on February 24.