I’ve been a Kathryn Bigelow fan since “Strange Days” when she gave us something rare, a sci-fi thriller centered around a smart, kick ass, tough African-American woman. So, I jumped at the opportunity to see “Zero Dark Thirty.”
I expected a testosterone-driven, jingoistic thriller; instead, I found an affecting and unexpectedly restrained study of a female CIA agent’s quest to find Osama Bin Laden. Much credit goes to Mark Boal, who meticulously crafts an unconventional war film. Actually, it is two war films in one, the first being a revenge saga and the second, yet equaling compelling story, is that of a woman battling to be heard in a male-dominated world.
The screenplay is both exhilarating and frightening in equal measures, as it effectively underscores the central role women are playing in the war on terror. It’s a war of patience and persistence that is occasionally punctuated by outbursts of violence. Boal brilliantly illustrates the paradox of this form of warfare, where we desperately strive for peace and security, while embracing questionable strategies to achieve this end. The screenwriter allows his protagonist to wince at the violence around her, all the while making tough uncompromising decisions. It’s not terrain we often see women negotiating onscreen, and as such it is as disturbing, as it is compelling.
“Zero Dark Thirty” is mesmerizing. I left the film eager for conversation, and that is what good art should do.
Lynn Nottage received the Pulitzer Prize for her play “Ruined.”