'Zero Dark Thirty' avoids political bias too conscientiously.
Kathryn Bigelow’s troubling, infuriating “Zero Dark Thirty” is about Maya (Jessica Chastain), a CIA agent whose obsessive single-mindedness eventually lands Osama bin Laden in a body bag. Like Ahab, she is fixated on her prey to the exclusion of all else. Bigelow and her screenwriter, Mark Boal, who also collaborated on “The Hurt Locker,” deny Maya virtually any back story. We know almost nothing about her life away from the film’s decade-long hunt. She is a cipher – a vengeance machine with flame-red hair.
Bigelow began this project when bin Laden was still on the run but changed course when he was tracked down and killed by Navy SEALs on May 2, 2011, in the assault on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. As in “The Hurt Locker,” which was about an American bomb disposal unit in Iraq, Bigelow doesn’t expend a lot of energy putting the commotion into a political context. “Zero Dark Thirty” is essentially, or at least ostensibly, an action thriller. But since we already know the outcome of the SEAL operation, which occupies the final half-hour of this more than 2-1/2-hour movie, the film’s narrative has a methodical sameness. This is a nuts-and-bolts cinematic dossier on how the job was done.