NEW YORK — Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal were knee-deep in preparing the follow-up to their Oscar-winning “The Hurt Locker,” a film that would chronicle the manhunt for Osama bin Laden, his escape in Tora Bora and the vanishing trail of the world’s most wanted man.
“Then history changed,” says Bigelow.
After a team of Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2 last year, the director Bigelow and Boal, a journalist turned screenwriter, set about remaking their film. Whereas most films start with a concept or a dramatic arc, Boal and Bigelow built “Zero Dark Thirty” one source at a time, piecing together a narrative out of recent history shrouded in secrecy.
The approach — a marriage of Boal’s reporting and Bigelow’s visceral action — has made “Zero Dark Thirty” a lightning rod. Though Sony’s Columbia Pictures won’t release it until Dec. 19 in New York and Los Angeles with a national release to follow on Jan. 11, it has already been hailed as the best film of the year, spawned a Pentagon investigation and elicited op-eds that say the film exaggerates the efficacy of torture....