Zero Dark Thirty Review: Brilliant Reflections on a Pivotal Decade

Photo Credit: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/24/movies/zero-dark-thirty-by-kathryn-bigelow-focuses-on-facts.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1355981442-kpu9rzXG6q0If8LxK7WHhQ

Kathryn Bigelow’s latest Middle East thriller does not take a side in any political argument but instead tells you a story. The events that happen in that story are controversial. But there is no question that Bigelow has done the story justice without having an agenda. A tough thing to do with a story that took place so recent and turned the tides in a major debate.

Zero Dark Thirty is bookended by the events of two unforgettable dates; September 11, 2001 and May 1, 2011.

The film follows Maya (Jessica Chastain), an important member of the CIA focused on finding Osama bin Laden. We first see her in 2003, ready for her first “interrogation” (those who can’t handle intense scenes of torture, steer clear). From there we are taken through many of the major headlines between those two dates as Maya sees them.

Throughout the film she cannot shake the feeling that she is on the brink of something huge. It gives every event, from the London bombing to the heartpounding climax with SEAL Team Six, a tension that will have you squirm in your seat during the entire two and a half hour runtime.

Despite it’s length, the film flies by. It’s hard to believe, actually, that Bigelow squished a decade’s worth of major events into under three hours. But it 100% works.

Over the course of the movie, Maya reports to numerous bosses, played by Kyle Chandler and Mark Strong, both of whom give quietly hard-nosed performances. That is before she gets to CIA Director Leon Panetta (James Gandolfini), who has some pull with President Obama.

Then we get Joel Edgarton and Chris Pratt as members of SEAL Team Six. Together they add some much needed fun to the film’s closing hour.

But this is Jessica Chastain’s movie through and through. She takes the role seriously bit isn’t afraid to try and get a few smiles from the audience. She makes Maya a person, not a star on the wall.

Bigelow already proved she could add humor in dark situations in 2009’s The Hurt Locker, which this film works as a companion piece to. She updates the espionage thriller, just as she did the war film with The Hurt Locker, by making it uncomfortably real and never letting you take your eyes off the screen.

Zero Dark Thirty is yet another timely masterpiece from the mind of Kathryn Bigelow. She puts aside the politics and opinions to create an unforgettable piece of entertainment. Simply put, this is one of the best films of the year. Grade: A

 

 

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