And oh the hype. It worked on me. How could you not be anxious to see, exactly, how they managed to track down Osama Bin Laden to a compound in Pakistan, 10 years after 9/11? Before the movie was made available to most of us, it had already been nominated for an Oscar! Plus there was the street cred of the director, Kathryn Bigalow, and screenplay writer, Mark Boal, who together created the amazing "The Hurt Locker" (which won the Oscar that year).
Bigelow's goal was to create a testament to the folks who dedicated every breathe of their lives for ten years to track down OBL...from a street level viewpoint. The story hinges on a young, female CIA agent named "Maya" (Chastain) who doggedly, almost maniacally, chases down every lead, watches every detainee interview, looking for the trace of a clue. She battles a whole sea of naysayers and skeptics, from the on-site techies all the way up to the Secretary of Defense, to trust her instincts. Instincts which, ultimately, prove to be a goldmine.
The characters surrounding Maya are colorful and distinct...I thoroughly enjoyed Jason Clarke (no big movies until this one, but will appear in "The Great Gatsby" later this year) as fellow CIA agent. But really? This is Chastain's party. She appears tiny and fragile, but underneath the exterior she is tough as nails. She was perfectly cast.
I am intrigued by the idea that there was truly a female CIA agent that played a major role in this manhunt. She is still classified, obviously, but based on my Googling fest, there were some hard feelings about her getting all the glory in this movie. And apparently she is so manic, she is a bit of a pain-in-the-ass. I think any woman in that role would have to be though. Otherwise, who would listen?
I found the entire story very grounded and edge-of-your-seat gripping for most of the movie. The search for OBL was like looking for a needle in a haystack, and the movie does an excellent job of showing us the tedium required to track him down. The climax, of course, and you know it is coming, is the Navy Seal invasion of the compound. Wow. These guys are something. Like ninjas in the night. Total badass. Serious heroes.
The movie has gotten some really ugly backlash in the press about its depiction of detainee torture. Critics say that the movie glorifies the torture, such as water-boarding, and implies that this type of torture was critical to finding OBL (they claim it wasn't). Well, I have an opinion on this (shocker I know). I think it would have been negligent for Bigelow to leave out those torture scenes. They are squirm-worthy, but are factually accurate. It happened, whether we like it or not. Bigelow shows us that the agents torturing these people had one goal in mind...to extract information. She doesn't not show them having a good time while administering the torture, nor do they gloat or take pictures. This movie is NOT the venue to issue a statement on the morality of torture. The movie documents everything the US did to catch OBL. It is highly irritating when people MUST find something to get upset over. Stop over-thinking people, and just watch the movie or not.
The movie is R-rated for scenes of torture, as well as a few f-bombs. Both of my teenagers saw the movie, and it made an impact on them. They are both tuned into the events of 9/11, and the war on terrorism. They both felt this was a historically relevant movie and were talking about it for hours afterwards.
5 out of 5 stars