There were no movies that won for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards that began with the letter Z. So I searched for one that was nominated for Best Original Screenplay and came up with Zero Dark Thirty. Released in 2012, it is the story of the decade long hunt for Osama bin Laden. It is rated R for strong violence including brutal disturbing images, and for language. The film won an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing, and lost to Django Unchained for the Best Original Screenplay award.
I have mixed feelings about this film. For one thing, it is two hours and thirty-seven minutes focused on the hunt for bin Laden by a CIA operative, Maya (Jessica Chastain), and encompasses the search over several years. I don’t like films about war that much, and when you add in some really excruciating scenes of torture right at the beginning, I nearly turned it off.
But film reviewers sometimes have to watch films that are not pleasant or all that great so I persisted. After about an hour or so, it began to be more interesting for me as Maya persists in her nearly one-woman quest to find the wanted terrorist.
Jessica Chastain won a Golden Globe for Best Actress for her performance in this film. Although she did a good job, it is mostly her thinking quietly or shuffling papers and looking at a computer screen the whole time.
Zero Dark Thirty is all about hunting, a very long hunt and we know the ending. Navy SEALS were consulted and were actors in the film. Although based on actual events, it is bound to have been fictionalized for Hollywood filmmaking and release to the public. Honestly, I’m not sure who liked this film. Teenage boys would get bored with the way it begins, other than perhaps the torture scenes. And very little, at most, the last 30 minutes, is the actual operation where the SEALS invade the compound bin Laden is hiding in.
Kathryn Bigelow, who won Best Picture and Best Director at the Academy Awards for the film The Hurt Locker, directed this film. She was the first female to win the prestigious Best Director award. If I would recommend one of these two films that Kathryn Bigelow directed, watch The Hurt Locker. It is more personal, following the lives of soldiers in Iraq, and the opening quote explains all to follow: “The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” (Chris Hedges)
But one of the reasons I feel a little soft on Zero Dark Thirty is because of the Navy SEALS in it. One of them, Tim Martin, died an untimely death after returning to the U.S. after active duty. I’ll close with a plea to keep funding in place for the treatment and care of veterans returning from the war zone. PTSD is a real psychological disturbance, and we cannot leave these men and women suffering alone.