Tale of bin Laden hunt en­thrals

Zero Dark Thirty

Kapi-Mana News - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT -

The Best Ac­tress cat­e­gory at the Os­cars is of­ten the eas­i­est nom­i­na­tion to pre­dict, sadly be­cause there are usu­ally no more than five great fe­male roles avail­able each year.

And should there be only four, well, just add Meryl Streep to the list.

Re­gard­less of whether she gets the gong or not later this month – though she surely has to – Jes­sica Chas­tain hit the jack­pot with Zero Dark Thirty’s Maya. She is cin­ema’s most in­trigu­ing, in­tel­li­gent and un­com­pro­mised fe­male char­ac­ter this side of Clarice Star­ling in The Si­lence of the Lambs.

Chas­tain may never again be of­fered a role this meaty, and au­di­ences won’t see many bet­ter per­for­mances. It doesn’t hurt that the film’s a cracker too.

Zero Dark Thirty chron­i­cles the CIA’s 10-year hunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, in which Chas­tain’s char­ac­ter pro­gresses from anx­ious rookie agent to ‘‘the moth­erf... er who found him’’, thanks to an un­flag­ging be­lief in a ten­u­ous lead.

We’re told that the pic­ture is based on first­hand ac­counts of real events and the fact the CIA is in­ves­ti­gat­ing how clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion found its way into the script would sug­gest the film­mak­ers have gone to con­sid­er­able lengths to achieve au­then­tic­ity.

That be­ing said, I have no idea if Maya is based on a par­tic­u­lar hot-shot agent, a con­sol­i­da­tion of sev­eral key play­ers, or just a well­writ­ten fan­tasy.

And I don’t really care, be­cause it makes for dy­namic cin­ema and a smart, tena­cious lead­ing lady. Lord knows, Hol­ly­wood could do with more of them.

Di­rec­tor Kathryn Bigelow, who pre­vi­ously im­pressed with Iraq bomb squad pres­sure cooker The Hurt Locker, has again teamed up with writer Mark Boal to ad­dress The War on Ter­ror in a thought­pro­vok­ing way, even when we’ve seen the cli­max play out on the six o’clock news.

The pic­ture pro­gresses at a brisk pace, jump­ing in and out of key events, de­ci­sions and dis­cov­er­ies. There’s very lit­tle ex­po­si­tion or ex­pla­na­tion for what’s go­ing on. View­ers need to keep their heads in the game.

Maya and her team face cul­tural, eth­i­cal and po­lit­i­cal ob­sta­cles as they amass in­tel from pris­on­ers and in­for­mants, never quite know­ing if they’re inch­ing closer to bin Laden’s in­ner cir­cle or be­ing led to a dead end – lit­er­ally, in the case of the Camp Chap­man at­tack.

But for the most part, the work of the CIA is de­picted as un­flashy of­fice- bound anal­y­sis, highly stress­ful due to the stakes, and po­ten­tially soul de­stroy­ing. There is no hint of agents hav­ing lives out­side the agency, and Maya scoffs at the sug­ges­tion she have a fling with a work­mate.

Many ( male) film- mak­ers wouldn’t have been able to re­sist cast­ing her as the ‘‘ am­bi­tious, asex­ual uber-bitch’’ we’ve seen so many times be­fore. Re­fresh­ingly, Maya is sim­ply a driven pro­fes­sional who un­der­stands the re­spon­si­bil­ity of her task.

Much has been said about the con­tro­ver­sial de­pic­tion of tor­ture, which mostly con­sists of wa­ter­board­ing near the start of the film. It has raised ire both from the United States government which claims it was never car­ried out by agents while pur­su­ing bin Laden, and by those who feel Zero Dark Thirty ad­vo­cates such prac­tices.

Cer­tainly, the film makes no bones about the fact the CIA lost a some­what- ef­fec­tive in­tel­gath­er­ing tool when the Obama regime swept in and neutered in­ter­ro­ga­tion meth­ods, but the pic­ture’s stance is more about pro­vok­ing con­ver­sa­tion: Does the end jus­tify the means?

Frus­tra­tion is pal­pa­ble when the suits in Washington, still smart­ing from get­ting it wrong about WMDs in Iraq, dither for months over whether to send a Navy SEAL team into bin Laden’s sus­pected safe house.

The even­tual strike, book­end­ing the pic­ture with the au­dio record­ings of emer­gency calls from doomed 9/11 vic­tims, is both a cathar­tic de­noue­ment and as grip­ping an ac­tion se­quence as is likely to be seen this year.

Star­ring Jes­sica Chas­tain, Jen­nifer Ehle, Ja­son Clarke, Kyle Chan­dler, Fares Fares, Edgar Ramirez, Mark Strong, James Gan­dolfini, Joel Edger­ton, Chris Pratt. 157 min­utes, rated M (vi­o­lence, of­fen­sive lan­guage). Show­ing at Read­ing Cinemas Porirua. Tough nut: Jes­sica Chas­tain en­thrals as a driven CIA op­er­a­tive on the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty, a com­pelling, in­tel­li­gent pic­ture that will leave you be­hind if you’re not care­ful.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.