Saturday, January 12, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty Movie Review and more

Three Reviews:

Zero Dark Thirty (Movie, 2012) 5/5 Stars

No Easy Day by Mark Owen (Book, 2012) 5/5 Stars

The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden by Mark Bowden (Book, 2012) 5/5 Stars

Movie trailer for Zero Dark Thirty

I cheered when I learned Osama Bin Laden was killed by Seal Team 6 on May 1, 2011. I’ve wanted that evil man dead ever since I learned he was behind the 9/11 tragedy. Fuck Al Qaeda, and all the deluded jihadists who think terrorism is the way to change the world for the better. Terrorism is not the answer.

When I heard there was going to be a big Hollywood movie I knew I was going to watch it. I also knew I was going to read some books about the hunt for Bin Laden. I think it’s therapy for me, closure for the horror that was 9/11, one of the worst days of my life. Those of you too young to remember what happened, may not feel the same way, and I think that’s fine. I hope you aren’t traumatized like I was.


I’m not going to forget what al Qaeda did on September 11, 2001. I’m not going to forget United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania because the passengers fought back. They saved the Capitol building in Washington D.C., or possibly the White House. The terrorists responsible deserve to die or spend the rest of their lives in a very uncomfortable prison.

I've now read two books about this topic, The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden by Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down, which is more of a historical account with high-level interviews and tons of fascinating information, and No Easy Day by Mark Owen, the Navy Seal who was there on the raid. I learned from those books, and from terrorism expert Peter Bergen's online articles that the info that led to Bin Laden was not gained from torture. I do not support torture, though I can’t say I’m unhappy about certain terrorists suffering. Still, torture is wrong.

The facts are that torture did NOT give us the info that led to the killing of Bin Laden. The movie, Zero Dark Thirty, hints that torture helped get the info, which is wrong, but it lets the audience draw their own conclusions. If you want to know the truth, read those books I’ve mentioned and the forthcoming one from terrorism expert, Peter Bergen. I might read it, as I don’t know yet if I can close this chapter of my life. I want to close it.

I personally felt that the movie makers (Kathryn Bigelow--director, and Mark Boal--the screenwriter) were indicting the use of torture, not glorifying or justifying it. They will not come out and give their opinions to the press, but I think they do not agree with torture. They just didn’t want to make their position clear in the movie. The movie is not partisan. Both the right and the left can appreciate and enjoy this movie. It's a little slow for some people, but I found it fascinating from beginning to end.

Now, I believe the people who freaked out about the torture shown in Zero Dark Thirty missed the point. The writer/director are putting the abuses by the United States government on the record. Forever.

The U.S. should not have used “enhanced interrogation techniques” because torture does not produce good intelligence, and it’s morally wrong. The FBI model of interrogation is far superior to the CIA method used in the wake of 9/11, and documented in Zero Dark Thirty. Read up on the subject if you want to learn more. Draw your own conclusions.

I personally think the movie was great. One of the best of the year for sure and worthy of the Best Picture Oscar nomination. I'm glad I read the books first though, but Zero Dark Thirty is an exceptional film and presents the spirit of what happened, if not the exact details as I’ve learned them.

It’s a thriller, combined with a CIA procedural, and Jessica Chastain, playing the CIA analyst, “Maya,” was incredible. Extreme dedication and tenacity can accomplish anything. Sometimes you piss people off along the way of getting the job done, like she did in real life. I applaud the real Maya, and all the people who worked on finding Bin Laden. The two books give a lot more information about specific details regarding her that did not make it into the movie. Read them for more.


I hope Jessica Chastain wins an Oscar for her performance, and she was nominated for Best Actress. She’s my new favorite actor. I first saw her in auteur director Terrence Malick’s movie, Tree of Life (2011) where she stars alongside Brad Pitt. It’s a bizarre and beautiful movie. Worth a watch, but in Zero Dark Thirty, Chastain provides the thread that spans the TEN YEAR hunt. See her also in director Guillermo del Toro’s horror film, Mama coming in early 2013.

The U.S. intelligence and military people kicked ass, and though it took a long time, they tracked that piece of trash Bin Laden to his hideout and killed him. The Seal Team would have captured him if he surrendered, but he did not surrender, and presented a threat to our soldiers, so they shot him. In the eye. Then in the chest a few times when he was twitching on the ground in his room with two of his wives standing over him.
Read Mark Owen's book (Amazon link here) to learn more about the raid, but the movie shows it in almost real time what the soldiers were doing. I highly recommend the Navy Seal account, but Mark Bowden’s book has some details that really complement the first hand account.


My quick review of No Easy Day by former Navy Seal, Mark Owen is simply this: it’s a great book. It should have been written. Mark Owen (not his real name of course) fought for the U.S. Constitution for over a decade, which guarantees his rights to have written the book, which does not include any classified information. To those who revealed his real name and put his life at risk: shame on you, Fox News. Mark Owen is not a fan of Barack Obama. You idiots went after a guy on your own team. Did you even read the book before you decided to out him? Morons. I guess I should not be surprised.

So, No Easy Day chronicles Mark Owen’s life as a Navy Seal. This is his autobiography, and most of the book is about his experiences leading up to his last mission. I found it all incredibly moving and a tribute to the U.S. military, as he intended. The Navy Seals, and all their support are true heroes. The chopper pilot who saved the mission is the biggest hero of all. He gets shorted in the movie, but not the books.


My review of The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden by Mark Bowden: It’s an amazing book (Amazon link here). I became a fan of Mark Bowden after reading Black Hawk Down, which describes the tragic events in Somalia where a mission went wrong in 1993. Bowden is a fabulous journalist and writer. This is a very fair account of what happened during the ten years leading up to the raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan. This book divulges a lot more information than No Easy Day, but it’s all unclassified, which amazes me. There is far more sensitive information in The Finish than No Easy Day. I wonder if I should really know what I know about our intelligence services. Let’s just say that super computers and game changing tactics wiped out al Qaeda in Iraq, and helped find Bin Laden.

The analyst, “Maya,” and a whole heck of a lot of other people helped bring Bin Laden down. As an aside, I learned that the real Maya was given an award and a monetary bonus for her incredible work, but she was refused a promotion. That is serious bullshit. Unless she’s so good at the level she’s at, and that’s why they didn’t promote her, but from what I’ve read, her bosses don’t like her attitude or whatever. I don’t know all the facts, but it seems totally wrong to me. Promote her. That woman knows how to get things done. The speech that Maya makes in Zero Dark Thirty to her boss, and is hinted at in the books, will blow you away. I want to watch the movie again just for that.

I felt a lot of closure watching Zero Dark Thirty, and reading these two books, regarding the trauma of the 9/11 attacks I still carry around in my head. Learning so many of the details helped me deal with the horrors I remember.

The movie and the books also hold up a mirror to what the U.S. and our allies have done to combat terrorism, and a lot of it is not good. Torture was the wrong way to go. The movies and books also show the true evil of al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden, a mass murderer and coward of epic proportions.

Go see Zero Dark Thirty and judge for yourself. See the movie, then read some books.

Here’s a pure movie review I agree with:
Movie Review

This is a well written and balanced article about the movie, written by Andrew O’Hehir.

Thank you for reading,

Paul Genesse
Author and Editor

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