Zero Dark Thirty Film Analysis

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It is opening weekend for Zero Dark Thirty (2012) and the theatre is packed—excited murmurs can be heard. The lights finally dim and “The following motion picture is based on first hand accounts of actual events,” is splayed across the black screen in bright white letters. Voice recordings from phone calls begin to play. “I can’t breathe,” croaks a distraught woman. An emergency operator tells her to stay calm, “help is on the way.” Screams flood the theatre speakers and the screen turns white. The entire theatre falls silent. Zero Dark Thirty’s, first scene is an audibly disturbing recount of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2011. This scene paints the tense and thrilling mood apparent during the rest of film. Zero Dark Thirty, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, is an American political thriller. The film follows a dramatized version of the search for Osama Bin Laden by American intelligence and military operatives. Although the film has received critical acclaim, it has not done so without controversy. Zero Dark Thirty has been heavily scrutinized by politicians, former CIA agents and was even banned from Pakistani theatres. This article will further examine these critiques and how the film replicates Orientalist discourse. Specifically, the article will discuss how Zero Dark Thirty normalizes Islamophobia and creates a diametrically opposed relationship between the ‘“Orient and the Occident.”’ This is accomplished via inaccuracies and stereotypical tropes of the
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