With the ominous score that ricochets through your eardrums, the high-density dialogue – “When was the last time you saw bin Laden?” –the murky material and the gritty camera work, it’s no wonder pressure appears to be mounting around Zero Dark Thirty.
Yet, those behind the movie about the Al Qaeda mastermind’s final days are saying that while art may imitate life; it’s simply that – an imitation, not the real thing.
Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal are fielding more questions about the movie’s depiction of actual events less than two weeks before its opening.
At issue now – after questions about access to classified CIA information to produce what opponents called a re-election campaign film for President Obama just before the election – is the movie’s opening scene that depicts waterboarding.
Bigelow added, “The film doesn’t have an agenda, and it doesn’t judge. I wanted a boots-on-the-ground experience.”
Furthermore, the actual CIA agent used to build the movie’s central character – an operative named Maya – is taking flack for her behavior while the CIA itself deflects criticism about its treatment of her.
More from GlobalPost: Hollywood, CIA getting too close for comfort, security chairman says
The agent’s real name isn’t known, and she’s not allowed to speak to reporters, but those who know her told The Washington Post that her determination and awareness were integral to the Navy SEAL’s success.
According to The Post, the agent has been passed over for promotion, prompting her to lash out at colleagues who she claims didn’t deserve any credit for bin Laden’s death.
The CIA awarded her one of its highest honors, and said she’s now working in a counterterrorism role.
“She’s not Miss Congeniality, but that’s not going to find Osama bin Laden,” one former CIA associate said.
Actor Jessica Chastain plays Maya in the movie.
It was Maya’s work in Pakistan exploring an Al Qaeda courier network that led to American forces finding bin Laden inside the Abbottabad compound.
Chastain – a 2011 Oscar nominee for her role in “The Help” – hasn’t divulged is she’s met “Maya,” but did say she has tremendous respect for her resolve.
“In playing the character, (I) grew so much compassion for this woman who really sacrificed so much for this mission,” Chastain said.
The film opens Dec. 19.
More from GlobalPost: Zero Dark Thirty trailer released