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Movie review: Zero Dark Thirty is not pro torture

Zero-dark-thirty-wallpapers-eAfter reading a pair of books on the subject and countless long magazine articles, I finally saw Zero Dark Thirty. Not what I was expecting, but a must-see.

The movie tries to be brutally honest in its recounting of the manhunt to catch Osama Bin Laden. This includes the United States' use of torture to extract information from suspects. The film has been criticized as "pro torture". 

My take on it is the film is saying - Here is what happened. Good or bad. The torture scenes are not pretty; these are not the type of torture scenes you may have seen in the TV show "24" where Jack Bauer screams, berates and beats up suspects. That felt like an action movie. The torture scenes in Zero Dark Thirty are brutal, humiliating, but director Kathryn Bigelow is not glamorizing this at all. Nothing about this story is glamorous.

Zero-Dark-Thirty-01Does it feel real?: Yes. Yes. Yes. Unlike director Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker", which told the story of three bomb squad members in the Middle East, this has more of a docu-drama feel. 

Action: Not a lot. The movie opens with some truly awful 911 phone recordings of the victims trapped in the World Center on 9/11. That sets the story for something most of us all know - that Osama Bin Laden was the mastermind, and this is the ensuing manhunt to catch him. What you may not know was just how hard he was to actually locate.
The finale, which is the raid on the Bin Laden compound in Pakistan, does not include background music but is absolutely riveting film making. 

How accurate is it?: At least according to the books that I read, this film seems to have followed the actual events fairly closely. The raid on Bin Laden's compound, which were written about in the Seal Team Six member's book No Easy Day, documented the final events much like the movie portrayed.

Zero-Dark-Thirty-Jessica-ChastainThe only detail that felt off was the way the film makes it seem that only a small number of CIA operatatives were on Bin Laden. When President Obama took office he made finding Bin Laden a priority, and the efforts to catch him were expanded.

Will it win Best Picture? I have not seen the other 45 films nominated in this category, but this does not smell like an Oscar winner for the best film of 2012. 

Will Jessica Chastain win Best Actress: She should. Chastain carries this film, and is the only person viewers will develop any emotional bond. She plays the real life CIA operative who dedicated years of her life to find Bin Laden. Chastain's character is portrayed as the only woman who believed the CIA had a good lead on Bin Laden, which is not entirely accurate, but her work has been recognized as a key element in this manhunt.

Should you see it: Absolutely. It is a fascinating story of Bin Laden's continued escape, and determination to bring him to justice (i.e. kill him).

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Bin Laden

I loved this movie. It was weird watching it but I loved it. I've seen it 8 or 9 times.

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