I was in court.  I had an early morning arraignment in a Long Island Court house for a ticket I received for either driving w/o a license or insurance, I don’t really remember.  I heard it on the radio while roaming the parking lot for a space.  I heard the rest of it second-hand from the chit-chat from the populace filling the court-house.  The court-house sent everyone home an hour later or so.  I was home watching the news with my mother and grandmother growing more and more afraid as we couldn’t get in touch with my father who worked in the city.

After waiting for felt like eons we received news that my cousin, a NYC firefighter was among the fallen.  That’s where I was on 9/11.  What about you?

I was working.  Working a shitty job waiting tables in NYC with no access to the outside world beyond cell phones (which we were not allowed to have on our person while on the floor).  A customer told another employee and word got around the restaurant, but no one was really certain.  The crowds were yelling and cheering in Times Square an hour or so after the president made the announcement.  New York (and America) was delighted and overjoyed to hear that Bin Laden was killed by our troops.  That’s where I was, where were you?

Zero Dark Thirty (named for the military time in which the surgical attack took place : Thirty minutes after midnight (Zero Dark)) is the film  that tells the tale of the stalwart agent that for her entire time working the US government did nothing but search endlessly for Americas Most Wanted Man.

The film begins with what is extremely realistic 911 calls made on that fateful morning, against a black screen made for only our minds to harken back to the images that play relentlessly on every channel every Sept. 11.  Skip a few years to the belief that torture of the enemy combatants will lead us to viable information concerning future attacks.  Many people are (and will continue) to argue whether or not the director and screenwriter are advocating or protesting the effectiveness of torture.  I think they do both.  It is no secret that we as a government body (and it is assumed the films agents) received valuable information through torture.   However the film also shows, without any uncertainty that it didn’t always work.  The film is necessarily about whether it’s right or wrong, it’s more to the point that it happened and it was a part of the time line of what will be the climax of the film.  Bigelow does a great job of throwing us right into the (action, fire: they all sound so inappropriate) situation.  As a viewer you are instantly all three characters : you feel the power of the torturer, you feel the pain and humiliation of the victim (even though he is part of the killing of thousands of people) and you feel the disgust and confusion of the onlooker; here being Maya our hero agent.   These are things that Bigelow does best throughout the film, you are part of the investigations, you are part of the mystery and in the end you are part of mission.

The film, for me (and some others I have spoken with), falters in the second act.  Primarily due to the political and covert minutiae that takes place and is discussed at a rapid pace.  Names that many Americans are not used too (Hey let’s be honest, Arabic names are not easy to parse out if you don’t speak Arabic and even as Maya points out some of these bad guys have two names) I didn’t know who people were referring to or who we were going after; till after my second viewing of the film (and then I was still confused).

The third act, the mission itself was executed (again bad form but that’s what it was) wonderfully.  You just have to watch it unfold.  Then check out IMDB for a couple of factual inaccuracies that make for interesting reading, but none of it really effected the film in any way.

The film is a good film, it didn’t blow me away (impossible to avoid it now) but I was moved more the second time around.

You know the end of the movie, it’s not really a secret.  There was a sense of pride, national pride when it occurred in the film, yet the film makes you see and realize the cost at which it came.  The death and the reality of those who had to become collateral damage.  Innocents will bear the scars of that mission for years (you’ll know to whom I speaking of when you watch the scene).  The film captures the necessary deeds of our brave soldiers and the sometimes cold responses that they need to have to deal with their actions.

And how about Jessica Chastain?  She’s up for an Oscar.  She does a fine job.  My good friend L. feels that she is getting the nod more for the role itself and not for the portrayal.  I would have to agree.  The evolution (or devolution) of her characters view of the need of torture, as she herself begins the interrogations or as she watches our new president dismantle the use of it is well done, she changes as her character does.  A fine performance.

It’s the end that truly makes this a film that deserves to watched (two times).  It makes you think.  It makes you think instead of cheer.  It makes you think instead of jumping up from your couch (or movie seat) and begin chanting “USA, USA”.

********************possible points that could be construed as Spoilers*************************

 

It’s the quiet smiles and handshakes and the lack of whooping and hollering that the soldiers have afterwards.  It’s all back to business, it’s not over; they have to sort out all the intel they have confiscated.  They didn’t celebrate the way we did in Times Square.  They had to deal with the fact they essentially murdered half a dozen people and almost got killed themselves to do it.

It is in the quietest moment, where Chastians character takes a step outside and realizes her mission, her life’s work, has not only come to fruition but is now … over, that this moment shines for me.

*********************end of that whole thing *********************

 

So where do we go?  Where were you at those two points in our nations history?  Where did you want to go from there?  Where do you want to go from here?

A great question posed, how do you answer?  That is the best part of this film.

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