Zero Dark Thirty was surprisingly well done considering how recent the depicted events occurred. It primarily follows the story of CIA operative Maya’s manhunt for Osama Bin Laden following the events of 9/11, climaxing in the raid of Bin Laden’s compound and his killing. I would mark this all as a spoiler alert if it wasn’t a highly publicized and widely known story already.
A notable and controversial aspect of the movie is its portrayal of the torture of captured terrorists to obtain information related to other Al Qaeda members and plots. The CIA relies heavily on torture at the beginning, but then finds itself severely inhibited after President Obama cracks down on torture practices. Thus, Zero Dark Thirty seems to make a controversial case for torture, including infamous waterboarding techniques.
I most appreciated the artistic ending to the movie. At the end, the pilot asks Maya, “Where do you want to go?” She doesn’t answer, but sheds a tear as the bay doors close. Her life’s work is suddenly over, and she doesn’t know where to go next in her life and career. This ringing question is not just for Maya, but for us as a nation. After killing Osama Bin Laden, we are left with the question, “Where do we go now?” Instead of feeling the triumph of revenge, we feel hollow, unsatisfied, and confused as a nation. The war on terror continues with no foreseeable end. The pain of 9/11 still haunts us. At OBL’s death, we did not shout out in victory, but instead shed a muted tear.
With that said, I was disappointed that there weren’t the usual “hard facts” at the end before the credits rolled. “Maya is still in the field today.” “The identity of the SEAL who killed OBL remains confidential.” I’m sure that they didn’t give any facts at the end to emphasize the sense of being lost described above, but it would have been nice to have something to firmly ground it in reality at the close.
*Check out my personal account of 9/11!