Verdict: 4 / 5
Like The Hurt Locker before it, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s second collaboration, Zero Dark Thirty, the unnerving true story of the CIA’s man-hunt for Osama bin Laden, serves as an important reminder of the true dangers of zealotry. It follows the frustrated efforts of Maya (Jessica Chastain), an officer who is adamant on catching the world’s number one terrorist. Her eagerness leads to the death of her colleagues, personal threats of her own safety and, ultimately, the death of bin Laden. Thanks to a great combination of writing, directing and acting, the film captures our interest and holds us firmly in our seats as it slowly builds to a climatic ending.
We’ve all read the news. We’ve all heard about the events that took place. How could such a recent event possibly be turned into anything rewarding you may ask? Formidable filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow is well aware and up to the challenge, creating an authentic account of the events free from political motivation. By interviewing former CIA operatives and doing immense research Boal and Bigelow have turned yesterday’s news into an entertaining film piece.
In an opening that evokes a tone of fear and loss, Zero Dark Thirty begins with a black screen, chilling phone calls from the 9/11 attacks playing over. We jump forward in time to find CIA analyst Maya, the heroine of the story, witnessing a colleague torture an al-Qaeda captive at an unknown eastern military location. In this harrowing scene she bears witness to various cruel acts (humiliation, beatings, waterboarding and confinement) supposedly used by the US to retrieve information, establishing her character as a no-nonsense I’ll-do-whatever-it-takes personality. That same attitude is carried on as she climbs up the ranks of the CIA, butting heads and mouthing off to political figures and higher ranking officers. Along the way she contends with threats from the enemy and disillusion within her own team. It all leads up to the obvious, yet riveting, final outcome, and then questions the cost Maya has paid in order to gain her sweet victory.
Zero Dark Thirty is ripe with Oscar nominations. And deservingly so. Jessica Chastain carries the film through, delivering a memorable and believable performance. But all credit belongs to the great writing team. Kathryn Bigelow continues to build a solid reputation as one of the world’s best directors. Zero Dark Thirty should be on your list of must-see movies.