'Zero Dark Thirty' Aims for Authenticity and History

Hey, "Hurt Locker" was very good. I'm looking forward to this one.

At LAT, "'Zero Dark Thirty' hunts for Bin Laden -- and more."

In 2008, the screenwriter Mark Boal sought an appointment with a retired special-forces operator. Boal was researching a movie about the fruitless search for Osama bin Laden in the caves of Tora Bora six years before, and he wanted insight into how U.S. forces gathered intelligence.

The agent agreed to meet, but under strict conditions. Boal would be kept in the dark about where the encounter would take place until just before, when he'd be given directions, via GPS, to what turned out to be a gas station. The meeting would be brief, and there would be no guarantee of an information exchange.

"I showed up and there's this guy by the pump wearing sunglasses," Boal recalled in an interview. "And the first thing he said was, 'Give me a good reason why I should talk to you.' And I'm like, 'Well, nice to meet you too, sir.'" Boal eventually cultivated other sources, acknowledging that as a Hollywood screenwriter it isn't always easy emulating Bob Woodward.'

The zigzag-y process that began at the gas station culminates in the groundbreaking "Zero Dark Thirty," Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow's searing dramatization of a different U.S. mission to target Bin Laden that ended successfully last year in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

When Sony Pictures releases the tense, dense movie on Dec. 19, "Zero Dark Thirty" likely will take its place alongside classics of war cinema such as "The Dirty Dozen," "Apocalypse Now" and "Saving Private Ryan" while simultaneously redefining the form. Few Hollywood action thrillers have contained so many documentary-style aspirations to truth and urgency — and so quickly after an epochal event, to boot.

And never before has a stone-cold-serious American war drama featured a woman both behind the camera and at its center.

"Zero Dark Thirty," in other words, could well stand at the vanguard of a new genre: the viscerally human but post-feminist (and post-political) war film.
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