Sat 14 Sep 2013
What is surprising for this two and a half hours film depicting the search after Bin Laden, the planning and the execution of the action that killed him is how superficial it is in its approach. It may be that the level of expectations was set too high by the previous film by Kathryn Bigelow, the Oscar decorated The Hurt Locker one of the best if not the best film made up to now about the war in Iraq, about the men in uniform involved in it, about the moral and human impact of the war on the people who carry it. Zero Dark Thirty is a very well made film which also proves that making very well a film is not enough for the result to be a piece of great cinema.
The film follows a decade of mostly covered activity carried by the CIA in tracing Bin Laden and punishing him. The film tells the story of the searches, with the ups and down, the false tracks, the mistakes, the labyrinths of lies and the misunderstandings caused by the cultural differences. Good action, well told, well filmed. It is just that we are expecting to see something else – because it is a film by Bigelow, because in a film about tracing and punishing Bin Laden we should learn something that we do not know from the stories in the press about tracing and punishing Bin Laden.
It may be that the intention of the director was to provide the human interest by pointing to the character of the principal hero – the determined and fearless CIA agent played by Jessica Chastain. Too little, too schematic, I am afraid. Who is agent Maya? What makes her so obsessed with her mission? Where did she learn to fight and win her way in a world and a profession of males? There are a few moments where we are hinted to moral questions about the methods of interrogation, or when the agent mask trembles for a moment leaving room to human feelings, but none of these elements of ‘softness’ are pursued. All we are left is a character that despite spending two and a half hours on the big screen in front of us and despite good acting does not let us know more about her soul than a routine TV detective hero. Oh, yes – and the memory of a scene of confrontation with James Gandolfini (in the role of the Director of the CIA) little time before the great good-bye of the actor.
Much less than expected.