This chapter examines strategies for surveillance in the film Zero Dark Thirty (Bigelow, 2012) and considers the ways in which these reflect changes in real-world monitoring of both public and terrorist activities since 9/11. The film is particularly relevant to a consideration of surveillance and space because it charts the ten year search for Osama bin Laden across various locations, a mission that is accomplished through a combination of strategic physical and technological observation. Indeed, its visual style and narrative trajectory are dictated by surveillance, the film thereby epitomising its prevalence in contemporary visual culture since 9/11. The claim here is that the forms of surveillance exercised within the film embody a combination of the models articulated by Michel Foucault (1991) and Thomas Mathiesen (1997), which consider, respectively, how the few view the many and how the many watch the few. The film’s expression of surveillance is likewise concerned with the physical space between the observed and the observer, albeit this is often in terms of geographically greater or more technologically controlled distances. As in the real world situation, predictive profiling is also important, and, while the filmic version of bin Laden’s capture further rests on the seemingly intuitive conclusions of its female protagonist, Maya, this is reflective of the input of women CIA analysts in the search for him (Bergen, 2013: 77). Because it is a production based on real events, an analysis of the film offers opportunities to consider the implementation of real-world surveillance, the multiple forms that this can take, and its potential inadequacies as well as its increasing significance in combating terrorism.
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