"Zero Dark Thirty" entertaining but inaccurate: ex-CIA agents

Fri Jan 25, 2013 5:30pm EST
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - Osama bin Laden movie "Zero Dark Thirty" may be an entertaining film, but it fails to capture the true nature of the work of those involved in his hunt and capture, according to three former CIA agents.

Nada Bakos, Cindy Storer and Marty Martin are featured in HBO documentary "Manhunt," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this week. It offers an alternative look at the long search by U.S. agents for the al Qaeda leader, who was killed in Pakistan in 2011.

"Zero Dark Thirty," which has been nominated for five Oscars, portrays the hunt for bin Laden through the eyes of a young CIA officer, played by Jessica Chastain, and is described by the filmmakers as based on first-hand accounts.

"It's entertaining. It's a movie, that's the purpose of the film. What it's not, it's not a documentary, it's not a completely accurate portrayal of how national security works, or even how the CIA works," Bakos, a former CIA officer, said of the Hollywood thriller in comments to Reuters.

"Manhunt" attempts to shed light on the larger scale of the operation, dating back nearly 20 years. It focuses on "The Sisterhood" - a team of female CIA analysts leading the search - and "Alec Station," the code name for the larger group involved in the hunt.

All three CIA agents retired from service in 2007 or 2008 and were given clearance to talk to the "Manhunt" filmmakers.

They agreed that the U.S. Navy SEAL team raid scene on bin Laden's Pakistan compound was well done in the Hollywood movie. But they were irked by the "Zero Dark Thirty" portrayal of CIA agent "Jessica," based on real-life agent Jennifer Matthews (played by Jennifer Ehle), who died in a suicide bombing.

"I was so angry at this heated depiction of Jennifer as some fluffy-headed schoolgirl ... I just lost respect for it right there," said Storer, an analyst who tracked bin Laden from 1995.   Continued...

Cast members Jessica Chastain and Edgar Ramirez greet each other at the premiere of "Zero Dark Thirty"at the Dolby theatre in Hollywood, California December 10, 2012. The movie opens in the U.S. on January 11. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni