Updated: Saturday, 15th August 2020 @ 6:31am

Now showing @ Cornerhouse... Reviewed: Zero Dark Thirty

Now showing @ Cornerhouse... Reviewed: Zero Dark Thirty

By John Paul Shammas

The pulsating and controversial Zero Dark Thirty arrives at Cornerhouse this week. 

Following The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow takes on the decade-long search for Osama bin Laden in this thriller, however its brilliance is eclipsed by the tedious debate surrounding it.

But it’s Oscar season after all, so obviously movies can, for the next few weeks, no longer just be movies. Instead, they have to be political statements that have no other intention than to clarify our current moral fabric with absolute authority.

Of course, that’s nonsense. But the self-congratulatory business that is Hollywood at this time of the year has a slightly uglier sibling which does nothing but egg it on, and that’s the blogosphere. 

Zero Dark Thirty shows torture unapologetically, in a tangible and honest way. There’s no getting away from that.

Undoubtedly the story of capturing Bin Laden is like watching sausages being made – it’s not pretty.

However, it seems there’s a belief out there that portraying what it took to get the US’ most wanted man constitutes some kind of sick, glorified endorsement. 

Earlier this month, Naomi Wolf, wrote in the Guardian that director Bigelow had become a ‘Leni Rienfensthal-like propagandist of torture’, and Naomi Wolf is not the only one who jumped on this ridiculous, self-promoting bandwagon. 

Bloggers have been queueing up to take shots at the film – which boasts Jessica Chastain as lead actress – for its apparent glorification of crimes against people based on race and many admitted they hadn’t even seen it. 

Perhaps those on the left miss the good old days of ripping on Dubya at every opportunity (there were many) and, instead of speaking out on Barack Obama’s use of drones, felt like taking the safer choice by indulging in a bit of nostalgia.

But the rather ridiculous political game of Hollywood’s awards season is clouding the historical and cinematic bravery of Zero Dark Thirty, and there’s another, equally offensive side to all of this.

Undeniably, the fact that director Bigelow is a woman has made the film a target. Can you imagine Zero Dark Thirty getting such a reception were it directed by Ridley Scott or Christopher Nolan?

It’s almost as if there’s a belief that a woman isn’t strong enough to tell this story, and that if she is to do so, it could only be in the role of acting as an echo-chamber for some of the powers-that-be. 

Baloney, the lot of it. 

Not only is Zero Dark Thirty based on first-hand accounts, but it manages to toe the line between being respectful to the recent historical nature of the event it portrays while being mesmerising and cinematic. 

It deeply showcases the moral descent of the intelligence and military operatives who dedicated their lives to getting their man in a dark, brooding way which few other than Bigelow would have had the guile or intelligence to do so. 

Zero Dark Thirty is the fierce and honest account that we needed it to be.

Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures, via YouTube, with thanks.

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