I was stuck in traffic in California, a long line of cars at the agriculture checkpoint 100 miles deep into the state, when the shots rang out. By the time the news came, I was almost in Riverside. Pitch black. A long day after the longest time in my life. Bin Laden dead. The world’s most wanted man, caught and killed. I was ecstatic. I called up my parents. I wanted to be in a bar, cheering. The entire country was celebrating.
Zero Dark Thirty is the dramatic retelling of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, from 9/11 until his body was carried back to Afghanistan. Unlike many “based on a true story” spy movies, this one does not try to moralize, politic or do anything but tell you, in movie form, how the United States, for a brief second, became united in the death of its most hated enemy.
Kathryn Bigelow, the director of the Oscar winning The Hurt Locker, makes true my opinion of her war movie legacy. Unlike many Iraq/Afghanistan movies that came out during the Bush era, Bigelow doesn’t give two shits about the politics or morality of the story. There’s no message to get across. No audience to sway. She, like Maya, the main character, is focused on one thing and one thing only. The truth.
Almost every scene, aside from the personal drama bits, is ripped right from the words of history and books of terrorism experts. Every major event and attack is true and told blow by blow, from interrogation to bombing, and tastefully done. There is no lingering on gore or slow motion morality, just the truth of the matter. Bombs exploded, people died, the mission continued. No one could ask for a more professionally done film.
Zero Dark Thiry is the closest anyone will get to the mission that brought victory to a decade of war. No matter your politics, you will sit there, quiet, as the credits roll, questioning (or affirming) whatever you thought because in the end, despite all the bullshit, in the bag is a bad man. And whatever you may think, no matter how much you try to hide it, you know it had to happen.
The 3000 souls that perished that clear September day were given solace. This long revenge was finally put to rest. We may never have such a poignant, clear moment in history in our lifetime. I’m glad I was alive to see it.