'Zero Dark Thirty': What's the story behind the film about bin Laden?

The plot of 'Zero Dark Thirty,' the movie by 'Hurt Locker' director Kathryn Bigelow, has been shrouded in secrecy. Check out the trailer to learn more.

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
'Zero Dark Thirty' stars Joel Edgerton.

The new trailer for Hurt Locker screenwriter Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty paints a tense, but vague, picture of their film – which is about the decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden that culminated with Navy SEAL Team Six’s successful raid on the al-Qaeda head’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. We all know what the final outcome was, so the devil’s in the details.

Bigelow and Boal have been playing things close to the chest on Zero Dark Thirty, so much so that the teaser trailer was technically the first official confirmation of the film’s cast. The new promo doesn’t shed light on how the duo are compressing so much information into a coherent narrative, though it does offer a quick sketch of the more central players in the film.

Judging by the new trailer, it appears Zero Dark Thirty partially centers on the efforts of an intelligence agent played by Oscar-nominee Jessica Chastain (Tree of Life, The Help), who uncovers vital information that could lead U.S. military forces to bin Laden’s secret location. However, we also glimpse important participants like Mark Strong and Kyle Chandler as fellow CIA agents, Joel and Nash Edgerton as members of SEAL Team Six, and James Gandolfini – who EW has confirmed is playing the current Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta.

Overall, according to Bigelow (via EW), there are over 100 speakings roles in Zero Dark Thirty, including “teams of operatives, from [Department of Defense], CIA, Navy SEALs, et al. that intersect with foreign nationals and enemy combatants.” So, although Chastain and Strong get the most screen time in the trailer, this is very much going to be an ensemble piece.

Now, as we’ve discussed in the past, there’s no doubt that Bigelow and Boal have their work cut out for them. It doesn’t matter how exhaustively they’ve researched the history behind the bin Laden manhunt – or how few liberties they take with the facts – Zero Dark Thirty is going to take a pounding from all corners of the political spectrum, with contradictory accusations about its alleged socio-political biases and fabrications flying in every direction (thank goodness the U.S. election will be over by that point).

However, few filmmakers know how to create pulse-pounding suspense and nerve-wracking thrills like Bigelow. Plus, she and Boal demonstrated they know how to create enthralling cinema together with the Best Picture-winning Hurt Locker. So, on those grounds, this movie’s easily worth recommending for anyone who’s just interested in an intense, well-acted viewing experience.

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

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