Zero Dark Thirty: Some Thoughts

I went to see Zero Dark Thirty on the weekend. For those unacquainted, and there’s probably few in that category who read this blog – Zero Dark Thirty is a movie that tells the story of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, including the daring and surgical strike perpetrated by Navy SEALs  which ultimately killed the world’s most wanted terrorist. As always you have expectations of a movie based on both how interested you are to see the film and the opinions’ of other people who have seen the movie before you.

I have an amateur interest in all things military, including hardware and historical operations – a little strange for someone who likes peace a lot. I have described myself before, in conflict studies parlance as a dove with hawkish tendencies. I do however believe that a damn good reason needs to exist in order to justify acting in a hawkish manner.

So of course, given my interest in military missions , Zero Dark Thirty was a movie that I was really keen to see. Of course, I leave out value judgements here about the rights and wrongs of the mission and its aims which were and are contentious. The release of the movie has indeed sparked a little debate about the raid in Pakistan too.

Of course I was also interested to see if what I had heard people saying about the film was true from my viewing of it. I had heard, overall that it was a good film and you would expect that anyway from someone of the directing calibre of Kathryn Bigelow. Kathryn Bigelow is the woman who brought us The Hurt Locker, a gritty no-nonsense portrayal of the lives’ of bomb technicians in Iraq.

The movie was filmed in a very raw manner like The Hurt Locker. There was no colour and nor should there be in a film of the nature of Zero Dark Thirty. It was also very matter-of-fact, again something you would attribute to a well-made film about a subject that needs to be dealt with seriously and with no undue emotions.

Around the time of the release of this movie, debate started to spring up on the internet about the use of torture in the film. I was curious to see whether the movie, through its portrayal of torture techniques, had glorified torture as some writers have claimed in the time since the movie premiered. The glorification of violence is something often attributed to films so you initially consider the possibility that it might actually be so. And then you think how sanitised the world has become. We could not possibly cope with material like violence in a serious and adult manner, like some would have you believe.

Frankly, the claims about the glorification of torture in the movie are absolute nonsense. There is no gratuitous use of violence. The torture scenes are present in the film, but they are dealt with in a manner befitting the reality of interrogation techniques used by the US Government at the time. Nobody in my group of friends who saw the film was anything other than taken aback, even disturbed by the brutal honesty.

For what it’s worth, I thought the film was executed quite well as a whole project. It was a bit disjointed, lunging from episode to episode in the saga that was the hunt for Bin Laden, but overall it told the story with very little BS. There was, of course some artistic license used in the creation of the film, but I felt this was unnecessary and eroded a little too much of the authenticity of the film and its subject.

Oh, and the cinema could have turned the volume down quite significantly.

About Tom Bridge

A perennial student of politics, providing commentary for money and for free. Email me at or contact me on 0435 035 095 for engagements.

Posted on February 11, 2013, in Other Attempts at Words and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. What I admire so much about Zero Dark Thirty is it’s guts so show the events leading up to this very touchy subject. Guts, that you rarely see in movies nowadays. Good review.

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