Film review by John Campbell
Whether it was Homer telling through poetry of how the mighty Achilles was brought down by Paris, or the makers of the Bayeux Tapestry recreating pictorially the moment when King Harold was defeated at the Battle of Hastings, it has been the lot of artists to interpret for popular consumption the rise and fall of the times ‘ heroes and villains. This intense, exhausting and riveting movie is a meticulous account of the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden.
Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow (this is miles better than The Hurt Locker) opens with a black screen. We hear voices of people murdered on 9/11 making their last hopeless calls for help and to loved ones. Unspoken but palpable is a resolve to avenge their slaughter. At no point does Bigelow indulge in any populist diatribe against Islam or Arabs – but nor does she allow you sit on the fence. The cells of plotters, scattered around the globe, are the enemy and you must decide whose side you are on. Politics has no part to play in the story, and neither, thankfully, does soppy romance, as CIA agent Maya (Jessica Chastain) leaves no stone unturned in seeking bin Laden ‘s whereabouts. Recruited directly from school, she is exposed to the brutal truth of her job as her mentor, Dan (Jason Clarke), tortures by water-boarding an al-Qaeda suspect.
This is the raw reality of the 21st century ‘s ongoing, undeclared war. The early stages of the movie are confusing, but no more so than the labyrinthine networks that Maya must uncover while constantly struggling against an institutionalised gender bias. Interspersed with TV news footage of suicide bombings in London, at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad and on a US Army base in Afghanistan, Maya ‘s commitment becomes an obsession when a friend is killed. Much more in the vein of an old-fashioned, covert police man-hunt than an action-packed adventure, the climax, shot in real time, gives a white-knuckle insight into what happened when SEAL operatives finally stormed bin Laden ‘s compound. Outstanding