On one hand this is an interesting film to see, as it gives very meticulous procedural and operational detail on the post 9/11 hunt for Bin Laden. Whilst controversy has exploded not only amongst film critics, but also from the White House, there seems to be a unanimous consensus that the film remains to be well crafted and highly tense. A caliber one should definitely expect from the likes of the writer of Hurt Locker (which was both incredibly tense and morally complex), camera work by the guy who shot Killing Them Softly, Bright Star and Let Me In and the editor of Argo, Heat and The Insider, not to mention cult 80s 'macho-action-film' director Kathryn Bigelow who is now labeled as leading the hyper-real 'new-war' film after winning the deserved Oscar for Hurt Locker.
There are a few points to make here. Firstly, praise for the film's craftsmanship is questionable, notably in an over-saturated market of war-on-terror fictions - particularly in television such as 24 and Homeland, which arguably have more of an impact and definitely more of an emotional resonance. What ZDT lacks is emotional involvement, as unlike 24 or Homeland, there is deliberately a minimal exploration into character or any intentional provocation of audience sympathy. This directly limits the build of suspense, making ZDT very tedious at times to watch. The only motivation is intrigue to witness how the events very close to our historical conscious played out. In fact, due to cinema's inherent bias for audiences to side with its protagonist, the only thing we as an audiences are directed to care for, is the murder (note - not capture) of Bin-Laden.
This directly falls into the next point - the controversy surrounding the film, for its blatantly extreme-Right views on terror, and the justification of un-constitutional means to get the job done - notably the use of brutal physical and psychological torture, which in the film directly leads to the capture of Bin Laden. Whilst Bigelow's intentions seems to be that of presenting a film strictly as procedural fact - to provide an unbiased account of the events, it is not to say that every cut, angle or spoken word unwillingly presents a point of view. Here we are presented with an overtly masculine team - particularly the female protagonist, who only has one motivation - to kill Bin Laden. Throughout the film we are shown countless terrorist attacks - notably 9/11 and the London bombing, which motivate our team further. This is not balanced by a shred of understanding of the terrorist groups, and the film does not offer any suggestions as to their motivations or America's evils. Nor is there any exploration or even mention of the array of political and moral themes surrounding the subject matter. Thus, unfortunately Bigelow's intention to provide an unbiased account has unwillingly done the opposite.
However, in defense of the film, a large portion of what one takes away from it is from one's own perception. Whilst one viewer after seeing the film may conclude that torture was a necessarily means to Bin Laden's end, another may view the torture scenes as brutal, unwarranted and critique our justice system. The same person may see the final raid into Bin Laden's home in Pakistan as a brutal murder of defenseless women and children, and an inglorious end to a 10year long manhunt which not only expensed constitutional rights, but our own humanity. Hence an ultimate critique on the masculinity that led to Bin Laden's murder.