Alynda Wheat
December 09, 2012 11:35 AM

Success, as they say, has many fathers. In the killing of Osama bin Laden, proud papas from President Obama to SEAL Team 6 earned kudos aplenty – and justifiably so, given the monstrosity of bin Laden’s crimes. But with all due respect to all those dads, it’s time to meet Mom.

Few people know the identity of the real-life female CIA agent who hunted bin Laden, but Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow calls her Maya in Zero Dark Thirty, which stars Jessica Chastain in the role, as well as Kyle Chandler and Jennifer Ehle. You’ll recognize Maya before we’ve even been properly introduced, because she’s the only pretty redhead in Pakistan assisting in the waterboarding of a detainee.

It’s a warning of sorts: Zero Dark Thirty lives in gray areas, brilliantly juxtaposing the perverse intimacy of torture with the moral imperative to stop terrorism.

This masterful, merciless film (out Dec. 19) also gives Chastain her best shot yet at an Oscar, as she constructs Maya out of vibrating steel, buzzing with determination to catch her quarry.

When May 1, 2011, comes, and the SEAL team heads out to fulfill the mission in the film’s terrifically tense final scenes, there’s a weird but palpable sense of regret that Maya can’t join them. After all, it’s her baby.

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