Please don’t expect me to pretend I didn’t vicariously enjoy watching evil made uncomfortable by CIA interrogators in director Kathryn Bigelow’s exceptional “Zero Dark Thirty.” If anything, those scenes show what a humane country America is. Oh noes we tied a terrorist up, played loud music, and stuffed him in a box! Oh noes, we waterboarded him just like we do our own Navy SEALS and left-wing reporters desperate for headlines!
Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal teamed up once before and won a ton of Oscars with 2008’s “The Hurt Locker,” but this second effort is far superior. The story compels from beginning to end, and there’s no agenda beyond relating the who and why behind an extraordinary manhunt.
If anything, the story makes clear that without the Bush-era interrogations, bin Laden would still be free. Also hinted at is that Obama’s sanctimonious ending of “torture” (so that he could concentrate on assassinating U.S citizens with drones) has been an intelligence setback.
Overall, though, this is just a great detective tale told by an extraordinarily gifted director finally receiving her due. The last forty-minutes cover the raid that pays all that detective work off; and even though we know the outcome, it is still edge-of-your-seat time.
The best compliment I can give “Zero Dark Thirty” is that it’s a worthy tribute to the nameless, faceless heroes (especially one, ably played by Jessica Chastain) who sacrificed much to bring a country some closure.