On one end of the Sony Pictures Entertainment lot here is a three-story rainbow: a new work of public art that seems to sprout from the Thalberg executive building and convey the magic of the made-up world of the movies.
Across the lot is art of another kind: a towering black billboard announcing the bleak arrival of “Zero Dark Thirty,” a movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden that is replete with jarringly gruesome scenes of torture as Central Intelligence Agency officers seek information.
To join the grit of history with the glow of narrative film was the task Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal set out to accomplish with “Zero Dark Thirty.” It is among Hollywood’s most challenging films since “The Hurt Locker,” the brutal Iraq war drama that Ms. Bigelow directed and Mr. Boal wrote and that won the best-picture Oscar from “Avatar” in 2010. (The film also won Oscars for directing and writing.)
The new movie is not for the faint of heart or for those expecting typical Hollywood fare. Whether “Zero Dark Thirty” succeeds may depend on the willingness of audience members (and awards voters) to relive difficult events in a drama that Ms. Bigelow and Mr. Boal insist should honor the facts and protect sources, even if that means giving less attention to cinematic conventions like a love interest, comic twists (à la “Argo”) or characters’ back stories.