Zero Dark Thirty advertises itself as the movie about the â€œgreatest manhunt in historyâ€ which when looked at closely is more so for the audiences back home rather than globally. This exhaustive chronicle for the C.I.A.'s hunt for Osama Bin Laden in the post-9/11 world plays out like a high-tech sophisticated Nancy Drew novel with Jessica Chastain playing the central snooping character; she even gets her own hardy boys to tag along on this one.
Beginning in 2003, the movie picks up with Maya (Jessica Chastain) a young analyst who's working with the C.I.A. and has been sent to Pakistan to work on locating Osama Bin Laden being part of a larger team who seem less driven than she does. Dan (Jason Clarke) is her superior officer and Joseph Bradley (Kyle Chandler) the station chief for Pakistan. Though she tries to hide it, she is initially squeamish about the torture methods employed by the agency on detainees, something which she overcomes later. Over the years she painstakingly tries to cover each lead and milk every contact to find Bin Laden. Co-workers grow disillusioned and leave, some are assassinated, others manoeuvred out by office politics but Maya's focus remains and grows stronger. Then finally it all pays off and the rest they say is history.
The movie has its heart in the right place and presents the events leading up to the killing of Osama with utmost precision. However by focusing on Maya, it almost belittles the efforts of others as they are simply presented as cogs in the wheel. Some like Dan and Jessica (Jennifer Ehle) who have stronger and better rounded characters than Maya are not given enough time to develop on their own. The almost surgical and sterile approach it uses to present the events begs to infuse a touch of humanity which is utterly lacking. Scenes like the one in which Mark Strong's character walks into a conference room of the Osama Bin Laden task force and give them a heated speech about enough not being done to find the terrorist, reek of showmanship. It's almost like someone on the team saw 'Glengarry Glen Ross' and said why not ape Alec Baldwin's speech from that. It feels forced and it may be perfectly real and well acted but in the context of the movie it has little emotional impact.
Even the scenes with Edgar Ramirez's team hunting down an important courier of Osama's in a crowded market place lack that zing which we have already seen in plenty of spy-thrillers so far. The final raid is well shot and so are plenty of other scenes but the aloofness of the camera can be jarring at times.
Jessica Chastain is good, all nerves of steel and all but it's Jason Clarke who for me was the most real character throughout. The movie has plenty of other familiar faces in smaller roles which lends some amount of credibility to the final product but most have little to work with beyond token outburst of profanity.
The movie's clinical screenplay is ably supported by technical prowess but has no heart and that's ultimately what the movie probably needed the most.view less