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Cinema Signal: Not quite a green light because of a controversy and a big flaw. MOBILE: |
. "Zero Dark Thirty"

I'm a little late getting off the ground with my take on this film but, as the Academy hasn't told us what awards it's earned yet, perhaps it's not too late.

The film, by the award-winning team that created the exceptional modern war drama, "The Hurt Locker," has, as every filmgoer knows by now, become an issue of controversy over its depiction of torture inflicted on captured terrorists as playing a part in locating Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, the criminal behind the 9/11 attacks on our soil.

But I found that this portrayal of facts isn't the only flaw or flagrant exxageration.

Wanting to trnaslate the story of America's ultimate justice into the feature film arena, as opposed to a docudrama, Bigelow and Boal realized that there had to be a central figure. What they came up with was a character named Maya based on a secret agency operative and whose depiction in the screenplay seems likely to be a composite to meet demands of Bigelow's fictionalized drama.

Maya (Jessica Chastain) is developed as a grand heroine in the Hollywood ballyhoo sense, the person who saw the effort through and dressed down her superiors at the agency in order to keep the search hot and ongoing. It's she who receives the ultimate credit for the success of the mission from the special forces soldiers who pulled it off. The grandiosity of the character buildup is perhaps best expressed when she claims after an equally beefed up macho female character in the drama is killed, "I believe I was spared so I could finish the job." Give me a break.

But Bigelow and Boal's hyper-dramatization takes nothing away from the talent they chose for their movie. Chastain, as usual, delivers another fine piece of acting. There's a reason why she stars in as many as six diverse films released in 2011, including "The Help" and the eerie "Take Shelter." She all but owns the marquees.

Bigelow purports to have approached her story from a "journalistic" viewpoint, but the effect seems much more the work of someone with a feminist agenda. The presentation of this woman comes off as one more case of false exaggeration rather than biographical honesty, to the extent of which this depiction seems to me a mockery of the intelligence agency that made the mission possible. Bigelow should have kept her agenda out of it.

The journalistic approach does come into the picture and counteracts all the flaws and controversies that precede it. It comes in the last act with a recreation of the tracking of the courier, which culminates in the raid performed by Seal Team Six. It is is so well staged as to capture a vivid idea of how it was performed, with great attention to the humanity of the warriors, their fears and anxieties, their courage and lightning skills, as well as operational progression and timing of what President Obama has characterized as "perhaps the greatest intelligence success in American history."

This is the film's reason for being and for praise of its creative team. It's the most objective and valuable contribution to our understanding of a clandestine military operation so central to the heart of a nation as to play a part in a president's reelection. Which is to say that the second half of the film IS the film.

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                                              ~~  Jules Brenner  
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Opinion Section
Comments from readers:
"Maya" is not the real name of the CIA agent involved in the Bin Laden hunt, but she does exist and by all accounts does have a strong personality. Go read the recently published Esquire article where at the end, the author takes the ex-SEAL who shot bin laden to see this movie. He has some minor complaints on accuracy (the breed of the dog on the raid being wrong, the SEALS talking too much during the raid), but he says that Maya was protrayed perfectly. Same with the woman that was blown up. The best source I have for this is the book "The Tripple Agent", which details the entire series of events that led up to that bombing.
                                                                    ~~ Alex 
Well written, perceptive
This review will influence me to skip this movie
Site rating: 9
                                                                    ~~ Nony

Well written
This review will influence me to read more by this reviewer.
I've seen the movie and I agree with the review
Site rating: 9
The movie justifies torture as an acceptable way to get information.
                                                                    ~~ Guadalupe

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Zero Dark Thirty
The hour has come.

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