Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong
Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s second directorial venture Zero Dark Thirty could’ve gone horribly wrong. The good news is that it doesn’t.
Doing in-depth research for a film is one thing but encapsulating all prominent facts and accommodating them in a tight screenplay is a different ballgame altogether. Zero Dark Thirty successfully manages to ace the research required to chronicle the events surrounding the hunt for ‘The most wanted man in the world’ aka Osama Bin Laden. Don’t let the length of the film discourage you because the gripping narrative immediately sucks you in from the very first scene till the credits finally roll.
Bigelow, along with her terrific writer Mark Boal, present a powerful story backed by facts that are brilliantly infused into the film’s narrative. Even when you know what’s eventually going to happen, you’re still made to feel the eerie tension in the narrative and a few shocks in the plot just make it edgier.
One aspect that stands out the most in this film is the absence of romanticizing triumph. Most American war movies tend to advertise ‘The Great American Dream’ through melodrama and over-the-top sequences. ZDT does not take that route at all. It is raw story-telling at its best, sans any frills. Like the torture scenes, for which Bigelow faced so much unrequired flak, which are portrayed with brutality and ruthlessness, mirroring the mood of the situation. Or even, while portraying the nature of the characters which emerge at the most unexpected of times. After you’ve watched the film, these scenes and character idiosyncrasies refuse to let go, as they constantly remind you how ‘real’ they were.
Another huge achievement for Bigelow-Boal duo is to not only break stereotypes but crush them into smithereens. ZDT’s main protagonist, Maya played by the brilliantly nuanced Jessica Chastain, who in a way is the sole person who believes that Bin Laden is in Pakistan and not hiding in some cave. There are various scenes where men look down upon her, are indifferent to her and some are even ignorant about her existence and importance in the CIA. She sets them right, with a poker face and a stern reply. One of my favourite scenes in the film is when an officer from the President’s team is being briefed about the plan to capture Bin Laden. He poses a question to the team, full of men, who supposedly don’t have an answer to the query. Maya’s strategic reply, takes the officer by surprise and he inquires about her credentials. “…And who are you?” He asks. “The motherfu**er who found this place,” she replies referring to Bin Laden’s hideout. Many such scenes bring a tinge of layered sarcasm into this dramatic film.
Jessica Chastain as Maya is just unbelievable. How can the perfectly-accented Gia from Madagascar 3 and Maya from ZDT be the same actor? She has proved her range time and again but this time she’s risen above expectations. Watch out how she perfectly plays this innocent, naïve-looking woman who suddenly transforms into an encyclopaedia of OBL and his network, spewing cuss words, clashing with senior authorities and not giving up even after surviving an assassination attempt. She’s the heart and soul of ZDT.
While you watch Chastain weave magic on screen, one can’t help but imagine maybe Bigelow was trying to project herself through the character. Just maybe, Bigelow is Maya. Who fights all odds in a surrounding still dominated by men, to do what she does best – make movies. And we sincerely hope she keeps doing that. Can’t wait for her
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