Columbia Pictures has released the first trailer, really a teaser, for Zero Dark Thirty, a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller about the killing of Osama bin Laden, directed by The Hurt Locker Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow. We don't see much, but what we do see looks promising enough?
This trailer is coming out at a funny time. Just last night some of us endured the "5/1" episode of Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom, in which Will McAvoy and his peppy news team covered the late-night announcement that Osama bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs in Pakistan. It was an even more heavy-handed affair than that show normally is, one that somehow trivialized the event in its attempts to make it seem like The Most Important Story Ever. Aside from the show's usual problematic gender dynamics and manic, overly quippy banter, last night's episode teased at the bigger problem of the show; its history is too recent, we don't need lessons from fictional people about something that happened a year and change ago. (Remember Sorkin's post-9/11 "let me explain terrorism for you" episode of The West Wing? Ugh.) The show turns all of its real-life happenings into convenient plot points without any real recognition of broader context.
So we watched this Zero Dark Thirty teaser, with all its "Bin Laden!!" yelling, feeling the slight twitch of an eye-roll coming on. It's not the movie's fault, it's just that only last night did we see this climactic event co-opted for the purposes of purple, overheated drama. In fact, we know that this film is grounded much more in reality and technicality than schmaltz. (Bigelow doesn't really do schmaltz.) Encouragingly, the script was written by Hurt Locker scribe Mark Boal and extensively researched with the help of the Pentagon and the CIA. In fact some politicians think those groups might have overshared, compromising classified maneuvers of intelligence operations and the armed services. So that must mean it's pretty accurate!
If things go right, it seems Zero Dark Thirty will give us a sober, and sobering, look at a long and ultimately successful manhunt. And what a cast to take us for the ride! Among the ensemble are Joel Edgerton, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Ehle, Chris Pratt, and Coach Taylor himself, Kyle Chandler. We suspect we'll get more of an operational thriller than a bang-bang action movie, and that's fine. When the talent in front of and behind the camera is this solid, we'll trust them to do what they want. As long as there isn't some hackneyed scene on an airplane in which a complete jerk finally learns a special 9/11 lesson, we'll probably be happy.