Saturday, 2 February 2013


Beards. They predominate. Oh yeah, and bombs. And bureaucracy, And balls, or the lack of them. These are the overriding themes of Zero Dark Thirty, a film about getting your man. In this case, Bin Laden. Before seeing this film, enticed by the hype surrounding it, I couldn't quite remember what the hell it was called, just like I have a hard time remembering the military call signs when spelling out my name to telemarketers (you know, Apple instead of Alpha and all that).  Then I was told it means twelve thirty at know 00:30 on the dark side. A bit like this film, really. But back to the beards. It seems if you want to play in the torture/Islamic world/Navy Seal space, you gotta have one. The film begins with a bearded CIA agent trying out a whole bag of Torquemada torture tricks on a defiant scraggly bearded terrorist who reveals nothing except the days of the week whilst being stuffed into a carton half his size or being led around like a dog or drinking water through a towel stuffed in his mouth. All very unpleasant, and interminable. Like the search for Bin Laden, which goes on for a very long time (as the titles keep telling us) and would still be going on if it weren't for an equally determined and defiant CIA woman with balls-a-plenty. Well, not really, though she does refer to herself as "the motherfucker who found him" when after ten years and billions she did just that. But I am getting ahead of myself. That is nearer the end of this 2hr 37 minute (but who's counting?)chest-beating exercise which apparently is true. The bureaucracy comes off very badly, with an irate CIA apparatchik eventually beating the table around which a lot of forlorn and frustrated agent/bureaucrats sit and berating them for the fact that after almost ten years they are no closer to their quarry, though they do have a lot of neat gadgets. At least he doesn't have a beard, though he has a very bad toupee.  As does James Gandolfino, who plays Leon Panetta, the head of the CIA, as a cross between Tony Soprano and Buddy Hackett. But I am missing the point, obviously. Which is that the world is run by women. Little skinny determined ones who live on Diet Coke and taffy and don't give up, ever.... That would be Jessica Chastain, who is supposedly going to win an Oscar for this. She and another secretary/researcher who finds a long lost file, use the age old method of gutsy determination and pasting people's photos on the wall (though in this case the key guy's brother's photo, which makes finding him problematic), eventually connecting the dots and finding Bin Laden. She is cocksure (not really) but you get my drift, that she is right. And Badaboom, of course she is. She finds the guy, a courier with a huge collection of mobile phones and a wife and kids who leads her to her quarry, and in the critical CIA meeting when the other ball-less wonders are talking in mealy mouthed probabilities, she puts her metaphorical gonads right on the table. Which she feels comfortable in doing, having been bombed twice already in the film and worn an even more ill-fitting toupee (called a wig if you are a woman, apparently). 119 days later, the film then hurtles to its denouement, which involves her inspiring the afore-mentioned Navy Seals and interrupting their game of horseshoes to have them sneak off in Stealth helicopters and attack the commune where UBL (I always thought his name was Osama with an O, but we all know how I am with call signs) is hiding out. This being Hollywood, they crash a helicopter, blow up a bunch of shit, pop a few terrorists, and FINALLY bag the numbah one Bad Guy. Or at least we think they did, because the only thing we have to prove this is a glimpse of something sticking out of a body bag. What's that, you might ask? A beard. Obviously. Then Jessia/Maya ends up getting a free solo ride on a C130 for her trouble, where she cries. And that is pretty much it. I wasn't bored ever. But an Oscar? Nah. I'll give the film a B. Plus. For Beard, of course.