If there is one movie everyone has had an opinion on this Oscar season, it’s “Zero Dark Thirty.” With folks like ex-CIA director Leon Panetta and filmmaker Michael Moore among the many, many, many pundits, politicians, observers and more weighing in about the film, its portrayal of torture and more, even the filmmakers have had to get in the fray, with director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal forced to remind folks that this is a movie, not a documentary and that depiction is not endorsement. But here’s thing — so far no one who has praised or defended the film was on the ground, but now, one man who was in the midst of action, has seen the movie.
Esquire managed to track down the Navy SEAL who actually killed Osama Bin Laden in a rather fascinating, must read profile that reveals, among other things, that he’s living on a meager pension having quit the Navy before serving twenty years, and lives in constant fear of reprisal. But he’s also seen what filmmakers have done with the event that forever changed his life, and he’s got some minor bones to pick with what Bigelow and Boal have put up on the big screen.
“They Hollywooded it up some,” the man said, who Esquire refers to as simply The Shooter for obvious reasons. He adds: “It was fun to watch. There was just little stuff. The helos turned the wrong way [toward the target], and they talked way, way too much [during the assault itself]. If someone was waiting for you, they could track your movements that way.”
“When Osama went down, it was chaos, people screaming. No one called his name,” The Shooter says about the pivotal, climatic moment while he also mentions smaller points of contention such as the fact that the dog on the mission was a Belgian Malinoise, not a German shepherd, and that there was no talking on the helicopter on the way to the mission at all. But one thing they did get right? Maya. “They made her a tough woman, which she is,” he said.
All told, the complaints sound minor, but frankly what The Shooter has lived through and experienced allows him to nitpick the picture all he wants. But as Bigelow and Boal stressed, “Zero Dark Thirty” is a movie, and with that territory comes the knowledge that some events may be dramatized or heightened for effect. This won’t end the swirl of talk about the movie, but of all the opinions out there on the content of the movie, there are few with the kind of first hand knowledge The Shooter has.