ISSUE DATE: Feb. 4, 2013
Bigelow’s film The Hurt Locker (2009), which logs 38 days with a bomb-disposal unit in Baghdad, was widely perceived as taking a neutral or apolitical stance on its subject matter — if such a stance is possible when the subject matter is the U.S. occupation of Iraq. It won nearly universal praise as well as the Academy Award for Best Picture. Bigelow’s follow-up, her second collaboration with screenwriter and journalist Mark Boal, was originally planned as a feature about special forces hunting Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora in 2001. Boal was deep into his screenplay when news broke of the SEAL Team 6 operation that killed bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Almost immediately, he and Bigelow switched gears, instead mounting a chronicle of the 10-year hunt for the al-Qaeda leader.
The movie that resulted, Zero Dark Thirty, which was No. 1 at the U.S. box office in its first week of nationwide release and has been nominated for five Oscars, is in many ways as dispassionate a procedural as The Hurt Locker. Yet it has become the most politically divisive motion picture in memory.
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