Film

Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012)

This is one of those movies that seemed hugely controversial for a number of different reasons. Firstly being it’s a Hollywood film about a real event, which is always an issue in Hollywood. Secondly, the real event is both a sensitive moment in American’s history regarding the events that followed after the 911 attacks (Afganistan, Iraq, The Arab Spring, ISIS), but also a comment on US politics and its foreign policies (torture, the military occupation,the arms trade, the oil industry, relationships in the Middle-east etc). Politics are never openly discussed by any of the characters, whom appear deeply cynical despite their unwavering patriotism and determination to locate bin Laden.

Similar to American Sniper (2014), and, interestingly, some of the themes of Apocalypse Now (1979) for its epic scenes of destruction and isolation, it doesn’t really answer any questions about 911, who Bin Laden was, why it happened, what’s the current state of the Middle East, should the US continue with its aggressive military strategy, is torture okay etc. Like Captain Willard, it’s not about answers, it’s about completing the mission; to find Colonel Kurtz and eliminate him with extreme prejudice, at absolutely any and all cost, and don’t think about the fine details.

 Marlon Brando Apocalypse Now

Chastain’s CIA agent ‘Maya’ is the same, but unlike Willard she’s not suffering from PTSD, or contemplating what the Vietnam jungle means on an emotional/spiritual level. What does it mean if a decorated soldier turns his back on the US and embraces the violence and death? Is there no end? Despite this we see her buckling under the weight of it all, at times infuriated by the rival diplomats and department officials attempting to curb her decisions, questioning her loyalty and the nature of the mission itself. Which is essentially nothing more than closure, vengeance and a bookend to history. A symbolic gesture; the fugative apprehended, the villain defeated.

I want to say that her character, like The Hurt Locker, shows a sense of ambivalence after the job is done, but her character remains passive, silent, relieved to be going home, and which itself is oddly unsettling and anticlimactic. She has no thoughts or feelings about it, and treats it like a job that just had to be done.

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