January 20, 2013

The avengers

You can think of Kathryn Bigelow’s Obama-hunt thriller Zero Dark Thirty as an unofficial sequel to Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center, prompted by the notorious line of dialogue at the end of the Stone film: “We’re going to need some good men out there to avenge this.” You know what “this” was. “Out there” is a nebulous “place” of black sites and embassies, largely in Pakistan and Afghanistan but not controlled by either country, that is the setting of Bigelow’s film. The first couple of minutes of Zero Dark Thirty set anguished 9/11 phone calls against a black screen, as though 9/11 is an atrocity still too awful to be depicted. The final image is of CIA analyst Maya (Jessica Chastain) leaving Pakistan, inside a military plane, against a background of white and red straps that forms a version of the American flag. She’s crying. From relief and exhaustion? Or from an awareness that the revenge she spent nearly 10 years planning seemed strangely unsatisfying in the end? One of those.