Zero Dark Thirty

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January 28th, 2013 J Jagannath

After her Oscar-winning PTSD saga The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow went extremely low-key with her follow-up effort Zero Dark Thirty (Army parlance for half past midnight). The movie is a blow-by-blow account of the events that led to the eventual death of the dreaded terrorist Osama Bin Laden. Anyway, what you are about to read is not a review. It’s an intervention.

Ever since the movie released it has been subjected to a lot of censure for its near-accurate depiction of waterboarding. The US Senate condemned it unanimously by saying that torture techniques was not what led to the eventual capture of Osama.

In a stunningly original critique of the movie, Ramzi Kassem wrote in the Al Jazeera that “Zero Dark Thirty lionizes those who ordered and implemented torture. In this respect, the filmmakers are complicit in reinforcing the impunity shielding the culprits”. But Kassem’s arguments have their flaws.

Bigelow never ventured out to put a spin on the original happenings. She could have been accused of that for Hurt Locker but not for this. The movie is largely faithful to Mark Boal’s astringent and factual script. Earlier last year, New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins wrote an enormous piece on how American pullout from Afghanistan is going to be eventually a messy affair.

About how the Afghan National Army can never really protect the Afghans from the terrorists. The recent spate of attacks in Pakistan on polio vaccination workers too is inextricably linked to CIA’s operation of employing a fake vaccination campaign to ferret out the details of the Abbottabad house where Osama lived his last days.

In the times that we are living in, the printed word has lost its currency. It’s the cinema that is burning the images into our cortex currently. Zero Dark Thirty has many such images. The last 45 minutes where CIA makes its plans on how to attack Osama and how finally the Navy SEALS carried it out to the T is a lesson that will forever resonate in the annals of history. 2012 had another CIA movie Argo, which made a mockery of the organization and somehow the world unwittingly loved that.

Ben Affleck’s caricaturish attempt to recreate an original event that took place in Iran is a total washout of a film that has unbelievably captured the audience. Probably the world doesn’t deserve Zero Dark Thirty yet.

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