Gritty and grand

Gritty and grand
With The Hurt Locker behind her, Kathryn Bigelow returns with another military action thriller — Zero Dark Thirty. Billed the “story of history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man,” Zero Dark Thirty traces the special operations forces’ mission to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, the man behind 9/11. Directed and co-produced by Bigelow, the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director, the film stars Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, James Gandolfini, Edgar Ramirez and Mark Strong. The screenplay is by Mark Boal, who won Academy Awards for best original screenplay and best picture for The Hurt Locker.

Bigelow, who was in April 2010 named to the Time 100 list of most influential people of the year, has said Zero Dark Thirty is a “military term for 30 minutes after midnight”, and also refers to the “darkness and secrecy that cloaked the entire decade-long mission”. Bigelow and Boal had finished a script focusing on the 2001 siege in Tora Bora, where bin Laden was once believed to be hiding. The stage was set for filming when news of bin Laden’s killing broke. The Tora Bora film was shelved and they began work on a brand new script. The result is now out for everyone to see!

Things are set in motion after the September 11 attacks as the United States begins a decade-long hunt for the most wanted man of them all — al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. An elite team of intelligence and military operatives, working in secret and in tandem across the globe, have just one thing on their mind: to find and eliminate bin Laden.

Zero Dark Thirty builds up the chase, keeps up the momentum and culminates with the takedown of the 9/11 mastermind. The film plays out essentially as a detective story on a grand scale — governments and people across the world are hunting one man. It also encompasses the ethical implications surrounding the decision to go after bin Laden and the logistical nightmares that follow the decision to invade another country to take him down. The strong cast works their parts well, putting things in place for this ensemble piece, an “amazing story about the triumph of will, dedication, and duty”.

Zero Dark Thirty became embroiled in political controversy even before a single scene was shot. Opponents of the Obama administration said the film, scheduled for an October release, would back the case of Barack Obama’s re-election by reminding the public that he was the man who helped rid the world of bin Laden. Sony denied that politics was a factor in release scheduling; Boal clarified that the US president was not depicted in the movie. That didn’t stop the controversies. Charges that the Obama Administration had improperly provided Bigelow and her team access to classified information were also made. Distributor Columbia Pictures, sensitive to critical perceptions, chose a release date well after the election so as to avoid any kind of accusations of political agenda.

Bigelow’s body of work isn’t very impressive before The Hurt Locker — be it Near Dark (1987), Point Break (1991), Strange Days (1995) or The Weight of Water (2000). But the gritty Zero Dark Thirty promises to set her up well ahead of awards season!

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