Zero Dork Skirty.
Not exactly propaganda, not exactly lies, not exactly conspiracy theory. ZERO DARK THIRTY, the story about the American hunt for Osama bin Laden, is maybe a touch of all three…
According to real life grunts, the title ZERO DARK THIRTY is bollocks. The military pronounce the “zero” as “oh”; and it doesn’t mean 12:30 a.m. (as the press junkets say) – it denotes an ungodly hour, the dark of night, “any time before 0500 when no one should have to be up humping stuff.” As one grunt put it, “Admit it guys, Hollywood gets everything wrong”; and another, “Shocking that Hollywood would redefine that phrase.”
And if they got it so wrong on the title, imagine how wrong the rest of it is…
Directed with a soldierly hand (by Kathryn Bigelow), written for intelligent viewers (by Mark Boal) and playing out in harsh realism, especially the last stunning sequence that is pure night hero ambush killing, as a movie, ZDT is very well done. As a historical document, it’s a meme looking for a YouTube account; it’s a conspiracy theory waiting to be nutjobbed – a fictional, over-the-top aggrandizement of people and events that need no further aggrandizing in this era of military coddling and pandering.
Whatever your views on Osama bin Laden (UBL, as the cool kids call him), sometime around 2010 he became no longer useful as a jingoistic rallying cry or political boogieman, so was reported “killed by U.S. forces” on May 2, 2011. And his body dumped into the sea. Uh, okay, U.S. Government that would never lie to us. We’ll take your word for it. If there’s one thing that the two movies ARGO and ZERO DARK THIRTY tell us, it’s not to believe a thing the government tells us. Yet, people will believe what they are told to believe. And when the narrative of UBL’s assassination infiltrates even the hip cultural stylings of Jon Stewart’s THE DAILY SHOW, it has overridden any bullshit-radar and become “fact.”
“When the Legend becomes fact, print the Legend” (from THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE). Robert DeNiro put it more prosaically, “Of course there’s a war. I saw it on TV.” If the TV box sez Osama bin Laden toppled the towers, I belee dat. And if the gubmint tells us they killed him and dumped him in the ocean, well, let’s runteldat.
ZDT opens on a black screen with audio of September 11, 2001 over it. Then it’s straight into the torture: a young Arab man is kept tied in a room, waterboarded, dog collared, crushed into a tiny box and forced to listen to some sweet death metal – in other words, what some of my friends call ‘the weekend.’
Bigelow says she included these disturbing scenes as academia, because torture was used, erroneously or not, in the hunt for bin Laden. Junkets go to great lengths to repudiate the Bush administration’s stance on lying to the American public that torture was useful in attaining intelligence (in fact, using torture DEPLETED intelligence of all concerned, not least the monkey in the White House who called himself Dick Cheney’s butt puppet). Still, these sequences will succeed in keeping the Glenn Beck fans cheering in their stew of ignorance.
Jessica Chastain is “Maya,” a CIA officer brought onto the UBL case, who pretends like she’s sickened by torture, but gets a great kick outa wearing wigs and interrogating Arab suspects by making other men punch them. Chastain would win a Golden Globe for this obsessive performance, as she is undoubtedly a great actor – if great acting involves behaving like you’re on a constant period. Meryl Streep, you’ve been using too many emotions all these years when you need only one – PMS.
Maya doesn’t sleep or date, freaking out like a frigid harpie every time she wants troops sent to a war zone or pencils sent to her desk; is it any wonder all the male officers around her snigger and humor her every time they see her ginger hair flouncing in their direction wearing that godawful pants suit? (Ironic she’s on a manhunt… Cos damn, she needs a man!)
Some real world events give us a sense of time and place: the 2005 London bombings (7/7), the Karachi Marriott explosion (March 2006), to the failed Times Square car bomb (May 2010), and even the explosive infiltration of the CIA base in Afghanistan (Dec 2009), which was perversely funny for the hubris of the victims, thinking that no one could ever sneak past their fantastic gate-guarding techniques.
Kyle Chandler (familiar character face, KING KONG 2005, DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL 2008) is one of Maya’s superiors. He plays the same type of officer role in ARGO this year. Mark Strong appears like Alec Baldwin in GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, swearing at a board meeting, telling them “Bring me targets to kill!” and Always Be Closing. James Gandolfini hairstyles it as CIA director Leon Panetta, asking Maya, “What have you done for us, besides bin Laden?” She answers “I’ve done nothing else.” That’s meant to make her look too insular for the officers around her, and meant to assure us of her righteous fanaticism. But for once, I’m with the U.S. military on this one – this blinkered woman is not qualified to be making life and death decisions.
Yet they allow Maya to cast her vote regarding a raid on an Abbottabad compound in Pakistan, which should give us all pause as to the military’s “intelligence.” While other CIA spooks are 60% to 80% sure that UBL is in the compound, she blurts out she is 100%. Yeah, that’s the way to mount a military attack on a civilian compound on foreign soil in a sovereign country – with zero dork evidence. And she doesn’t want to send SEALs for a precise strike, she just wants to nuke the place, innocent bystanders be damned. Luckily, the CIA decided not to go with the gut feelings of an emotionally unstable ginger on a revenge whim, and opted to send in Navy SEAL Team 6. But they let her sit at the table nonetheless and voice her idiocy instead of throwing a bucket of water over her. How scared are you now of your military making irrational decisions?
So after two hours of talk talk talk about terrorist operatives whose names we never knew and never needed to know, dead ends and non sequiturs, fillm’s last 20 minutes are pure night-vision tension-racked military big-dickery, as Joel Edgerton leads a team of SEALs dressed like Dr. Johann Strauss from HELLBOY II, into a three-storey house to ambush unarmed women and children like heroes.
As she did with her Oscar-grabbing HURT LOCKER, Kathryn Bigelow directs this military film with a manly hand; trouble is, the content, tone and ultimate subject matter of the movie, as with LOCKER, is contention masquerading as heroism. And no matter how much she denies it for both pictures, they are gratuitous glorifications for war and the military; look at those grunts, portrayed as their own little gods in those crazy-ass uniforms, quadruple-scope night vision, bedecked with ammo, explosives, tools, automatic weapons. And we’re supposed to consider them heroes against women wearing bedsheets.
As to why she would choose to film this story: Bigelow – female director; Maya – female operative; simple chick-on-chick man-love. It ain’t supernatural.
As Morgan Spurlock discovered in his excellent comedic documentary WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN? (2008), killing that figurehead would make no dent in anything; no amount of loss or benefit would ensue for any countries or factions. That was true. The U.S. powers played their cards too little too late – hell, the news of bin Laden’s death was almost inconsequential to the 2012 reelection of Obama, where once it might have propped up a president for years.
We see moron W in a one-second TV snippet, while Obama gets a chunk of interview on CNN, proclaiming, “America doesn’t torture.” Ah yes, more lies, propaganda and conspiracy theory.