Zero Dark Thirty [movies]
A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May 2011.
Zero Dark Thirty is a 2012 American historical drama film directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal. Billed as “the story of history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man,” the film is a dramatization of the American operation that killed Osama bin Laden. It was produced by Boal, Bigelow, and Megan Ellison, and stars Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, Jennifer Ehle, Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler, and Édgar Ramírez. It was independently financed by Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures. The film had its premiere in Los Angeles, California on December 18, 2012 and had its wide release on January 11, 2013.
Zero Dark Thirty was released to wide critical acclaim and was nominated for five Academy Awards at the 85th Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actress (Jessica Chastain) and Best Original Screenplay. Zero Dark Thirty also earned four Golden Globe Award nominations includingBest Picture – Drama, Best Director, and Best Actress – Drama for Chastain, which she won. It has attracted praise as well as controversy and strong criticism for its allegedly pro-torture stance and for allegedly obtaining improper access to classified materials.
In 2003, Maya, a CIA officer, has spent her entire brief career focusing solely on intelligence related to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following the September 11 attacks. She has just been reassigned to work with fellow officer Dan at the U.S. embassy in Pakistan. During the first months of her assignment, she often accompanies Dan to a black site for his ongoing interrogation of Ammar, a detainee with links to several Saudi terrorists. Dan subjects him to torture and humiliation, including waterboarding, and he and Maya eventually trick Ammar into divulging that an old acquaintance, who is using the alias ‘Abu Ahmed’, is working as a personal courier for bin Laden. Other detainees corroborate this, with some claiming he delivers messages between bin Laden and Abu Faraj al-Libbi.
In mid-2005, Abu Faraj is apprehended by the CIA and local police in Pakistan. Maya interrogates Abu Faraj and has him tortured, but he continues to deny knowing a courier with such a name. Maya interprets this as Abu Faraj trying to conceal the true importance of Abu Ahmed.
Maya evolves from a freshman to a veteran officer, but displaying the zeal and frustrations of a focused ‘single-tasker’; she fixates on finding Abu Ahmed, determined to use him to find bin Laden. Along a span of five years: she survives the 2008 Islamabad Marriott Hotel bombing as well as an attack on her life by armed men; Dan, departing on re-assignment, warns Maya about a possible change in politics, alluding the new administration may move to prosecute those officers involved in torture; Maya’s fellow officer and friend Jessica is killed in the 2009 Camp Chapman attack. A Jordanian detainee claims the man previously identified as Abu Ahmed from photography is a man he personally buried in 2001; this leads several CIA officers —Maya’s seniors— to conclude the target who could be Abu Ahmed is long dead and they have searched a false trail for nine years. A fellow analyst researching Moroccan intelligence archives comes to Maya and suggests that Abu Ahmed is actually ‘Ibrahim Sayeed’. Maya agrees and contacts Dan, who is now working at the CIA headquarters. Maya theorizes the CIA’s supposed photograph of Abu Ahmed was actually of Ibrahim Sayeed’s brother Habib, who was indeed killed in Afghanistan and bore a striking resemblance to Ibrahim. Dan uses CIA funds to purchase a Lamborghini for a Kuwaiti in exchange for the telephone number of Sayeed’s mother. Calls to the mother are now traced, and one caller’s persistent use of tradecraft to avoid detection leads Maya to conclude the caller is Abu Ahmed. Now, at Maya’s behest, numerous CIA operatives are deployed to search for and identify Abu Ahmed; they locate him in his vehicle and eventually track him to a large suburban compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
The compound is put under heavy surveillance for several months, but bin Laden’s presence there cannot be directly proven. Meanwhile, the President’s National Security Advisor tasks the CIA with producing a plan to capture or kill bin Laden if it can be confirmed that he is in the compound. An agency team devises to use two top-secret stealth helicopters (developed at Area 51) secretly to enter Pakistan and insert a U.S. Navy SEAL team to raid the compound. Before briefing U.S. President Obama, CIA director Leon Panetta holds a meeting of his top officials, who assess only a 60% chance that bin Laden is living in the compound. (Maya, also in attendance, confidently asserts the chances are 100%.)
The raid is approved by President Obama and is executed on May 2, 2011. Although execution is complicated by one of the helicopters crashing and thus rousing the neighborhood, the SEALs ultimately find bin Laden on the compound’s top level and kill him. They bring his body back to a U.S. base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, where Maya awaits. She views the body and visually confirms it is bin Laden. Maya is next seen boarding a military C-130 as its only passenger. The loading ramp closes and the plane prepares for takeoff as Maya, overwhelmed with emotion, begins to cry.