Prior to watching Zero Dark Thirty, I had no knowledge or background of the film or its subject – except that it was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, that the lead was Jessica Chastain, and that it was somehow related to Osama Bin Laden.
Post-watching this film, I realised just how poorly equipped I was to watch the shocking spectacle that was, this film.
The opening scene was not really a scene at all, but rather, a sequence of voices, overlapping, distorted, blurred, and to be perfectly honest, utterly confusing. However, I think that’s what the director was hoping to achieve – a true representation of the chaos and horror that terrorism creates.
Having not watched a single Bigelow film preceding this one (namely – The Hurt Locker) I was caught unaware, in witnessing such brutal raw violence. Although some may disagree, I don’t believe it was gratuitous, but rather, acted as a driving necessity for the maintenance of the pace and intensity of this film. The lack of exaggerated editing and non-diegetic music allowed the meaning and reality of torture and helped me realise its place not as a glorification of torture, but rather a truth and as presented – a means to an end. It also helped that these scenes focussed featured heavily on the distraught reactions of Maya, played by Jessica Chastain – and further amplified the humanness (and consequentially, the inhumanness) of the act.
As for Ms. Jessica Chastain herself – I found she gave quite an astute and sustained performance throughout and despite, of all the tumultuous chaos of her character’s ‘hunt’ and as an actress, brought an insight of character, producing a credible, human story – supported by the evidently incredible director Kathryn Bigelow.
It is the human story, amongst all the contextual details, that allowed me to fully appreciate this film. Although predictable, the unconventional story-telling techniques employed in this film are what set it apart. Emotions were evoked not only in the dialogue (as is normality) but rather in the pronounced body language of the actors once again, creating room for multi-layered interpretation and a meaning that is not clear or explicit but fascinating.
Overall, an extremely intelligent, clever representation of a very unclear reality. I cannot say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, nor can I say it was particularly thought provoking however it is smart, unrefined (in a good way) and above all, VERY good entertainment.