This is a fascinating and intense movie that pulls off an interesting trick. You know how it ends — we all do, except for those of you who only just now got out of your Tibetan monastery And yet there is suspense. It does not feel too long. How is that done?
With detail — in this case, lots of the mundane grunt work of espionage. It’s details that make a fiction come to life, on the page or on the screen. The depressing, dangerous and claustrophobic work of a CIA officer comes across as clearly as life in Hobbiton. With the details to bolster the step-by-step hunt for Osama bin Laden, we get completely invested in Maya and her quest, both its triumphs and its costs.
This movie has drawn considerable commentary about its handling of torture. In retrospect I can rationalize by noting that it is historically accurate; it did occur and so it is not inaccurate for it ti appear on the screen. Furthermore, in the film, duress gets the investigators nowhere. It’s legwork, cunning, and the usual espionage tricks (a new Lamborghini, really?) that eventually win the day.
While I was watching the movie, however, I had no qualms. The ethos of the film carried me right along, aided by my own history, and made the rough stuff perfectly fine. On May 3, 2011 — the day after this movie ends — I posted on Facebook: So perish all the enemies of the United States of America. I’m still good with that. Threaten my children, and I will watch your misery even in fiction with icy calm.