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I Am Sick of All the Kathryn Bigelow-Bashing for ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

Guest blog: And I, for one, do not fault Bigelow for showing torture scenes — 9/11 was the most heinous form of torture perhaps ever


Kathryn Bigelow did not direct the bombing on 9/11

She directed "Zero Dark Thirty," which is a film about the capturing and killing of Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the terror of 9/11.

One would think from all her critics that Bigelow was part of al-Qaeda. I am sick of all the bashing she is getting. Let all those who criticize her go out and direct their own interpretation of this story.

"Zero Dark Thirty" is the tale of one woman's perseverance, determination and conviction. Yes, it took a woman to catch the world's most dangerous man, Osama bin Laden. This woman is not a composite but one woman who stands up to a barrage of male CIA members who challenge her beliefs. Her raison d'etre

And I, for one, do not fault Bigelow for showing torture scenes — 9/11 was the most heinous form of torture perhaps ever. Why aren't we celebrating the killing of bin Laden, which has made our nation a safer place?

We all know this story, but it is the details with which director Bigelow surrounds us that set the film apart from many other Oscar contenders — and though she was sadly and unfairly overlooked for an Oscar for a Best Director nod, her film is up for Best Picture.

The actors are not superstars. It is better this way. We are able to watch the story without focusing on individuals. But there is Jessica Chastain, who is magnificent as Maya, the unidentified member of the CIA who did the stalking of bin Laden for 10 years — while the Bush Administration, which had business ties to the bin Laden family, ignored her intel. 

The search for OBL had become Maya's mission. She was determined to see him dead. This is not to say Navy SEAL Team 6 did not do heavy lifting and save the final day, but if it had not been for the mysterious heroine at the center of this saga and for President Obama for greenlighting the capture, there would not have been a body bag filled with  the founder of al-Qaeda responsible for Sept. 11.

My only qualm with the film was Chastain's appearance. Here we have a role where a woman is challenged by men to be listened to and to be respected, not viewed as an object. Yet she has heavy black eyeliner and her hair pinned back on one side like a femme fatale. Chastain is such a beauty that she doesn't need makeup, and certainly if she were traveling the globe in search of a terrorist and not just any terrorist but OBL she would not be vain or worry about her appearance.

But her performance has just the right edge and energy in all the right places. She is restrained in a board room with the top CIA brass when James Gandolfini, as Leon Panetta, ignores her and another member says, "I'd like Maya's opinion if bin Laden is in this structure."

She was the only person in the room who had the courage of her convictions to say, "I do … 100 percent." Fortunately, after she presents her argument, she is listened to, and her knowledge is acted upon, though she is without proof: There were no actual photos of OBL in his residence in Abattabad, Pakistan, where he was captured.

This cast was enormous, and it is sad to say that many of the fine actors cannot be credited because of the size of this team. And it was a team effort. Jason Clarke (Tom) portrays a CIA operative who interrogates suspects. Jennifer Ehle (Jessica) is an analyst who has said that this is a film about two women not defined by the men they are with, but instead hunt. Kyle Chandler (Joseph Bradley) plays Maya's superior with style.

This film begins with a blank screen and only the sounds of the horrific Sept. 11 attack. After seeing Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," which begins the same way, I wondered if this was part of the reason Bigelow was not nominated. But her film quickly moves chronologically through time to show the CIA's struggle to find OBL.

This movie is a tribute to the power of fine moviemaking. The audience may know what happens in a story, but it is how it is told as to how much a viewer cares. I must say I was on the edge of my seat. At my screening there was applause — and I was one of those clapping.

Carole Mallory is an actress, journalist, professor, film critic. Her film credits include “Stepford Wives” and “Looking for Mr. Goodbar.” As a supermodel she graced the covers of Cosmopolitan, New York, Newsweek. Her new novel, "Flash," hit #22 on Kindle's bestseller list of erotica in its first day of release. She also has written a memoir of her time with Norman Mailer, “Loving Mailer.”  After the writer's death, she sold her archive of his papers to Harvard. Her journalistic pieces on Vonnegut, Jong, Vidal, Baryshinikov, Heller have been published in Parade, Esquire, Playboy, Los Angeles Magazine, the Huffington Post. Her review of Charles Shields' biography of Kurt Vonnegut, "And So It Goes," was published in the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer.  She is teaching creative writing at Temple University and Rosemont College and blogs at malloryhollywoodeast@blogspot.com.