For nearly a decade, various intelligence and military operatives sacrifice their entire lives, working hard across the globe for one reason, and one reason only: To find and eliminate Osama Bin Laden. Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty centers around Maya, a young new intelligence operative whose perseverance and determination are second to none. The greatest attribute about Zero Dark Thirty is that it puts its characters first in telling this story. The film does a great job at capturing the chaotic nature of a job like this. We see not only the moral wear and tear which affects Maya, but also the tension among various CIA operatives, and the fear of being half way around the world and always having to watch your back. The film at its core is about the sacrifices one makes for the sake of their country - in Maya's case essentially giving her whole life to the cause, leaving little time for real type of friendship or companionship. It's subtle but Maya transforms right in front of our eyes from a somewhat timid individual to a hard and calculating individual who won't back down from what she believes is right. Maya is an incredibly strong female character and Bigelow subtle captures the female dynamics in a male-driven occupation. I do wish the film would have spent more time on the moral ambiguities which exist in this line of work, and while it does scratch the surface, it could have done more to explore these themes - particularly commitment to country vs. commitment to humanity. Honestly I don't understand how Zero Dark Thirty sparked all this intellectual debate about torture, as the film itself never has much to say on the topic. Zero Dark Thirty is a sprawling epic military procedural that does a great job at immersing the viewer into this world. While the film is centered around the manhunt for Osama Bin Laden, how Zero Dark Thirty studies Maya is what makes it a strong film.
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