Review: Zero Dark Thirty
Following the attacks on the homeland on September 11th, 2001, the United States embarks on a worldwide quest to fight terrorism and defend its people, an endeavor culminating in the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Who’s in it?
Jessica Chastain plays the careful and determined Maya, a woman without politics, a past, or really anyone. Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler and Jennifer Ehle work alongside her, with James Gandolfini showing up as the C.I.A. director, Joel Edgerton and Chris Pratt playing SEALs, and the ubiquitous Mark Duplass making probably his 28th appearance on screen since last January (he is really all over the place, and that’s not a bad thing).
There has been an onslaught of lengthy films over the last little while, but the two and a half hour perfectly-paced and genuinely suspenseful film by Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow passes in the blink of an eye. Fraught with tension, a point that is staggering considering we know exactly how this ends (and these are far more recent events as compared to another suspenseful historical film, Argo), Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have very carefully and thoughtfully constructed a powerful story.
This is not a political film–it can be, if that is what you are anticipating and seeking, but Bigelow doesn’t take you inside the Oval Office or to any political backroom as legislators discuss torture or political maneuvering. In what is Maya’s first foray into the investigation, she, like the audience, is confronted with the waterboarding of a detainee. She holds her composure, and reacts neither in protest nor support.
It is an incredibly well-told story by a director who knows how to keep pace, juggle characters, and one who expects and demands more from the viewer than most (think Christopher Nolan). While the C.I.A. has come out and said the film is not historically accurate in regard to the torture scenes, the film is not a documentary and certainly subject to nitpicking by those who want to be nitpickers. To do that though, would question why you would go to the movies in the first place.
Told through the eyes of Maya, the film shifts for its last 25 minutes, during which the raid takes place. Those 25 minutes might just leave you breathless. It is a triumph of storytelling, direction, and acting, and because it is released right as the calendar changes, it’s either the best film of 2012 or one of the best in 2013.
Should You See It?
Absolutely. This film cares not about your politics; this is a movie for people who love movies.
Maya has quite a few memorable ones, a credit to Chastain, who will be nominated for an Oscar. When asked how certain she is that she has found bin Laden’s compound:
“100%. Okay, 95% because I know how much certainty freaks you guys out, but it’s 100%.”
And perhaps the simplest though most ominous line:
“I’m gonna smoke everyone in this operation, and then I’m gonna kill bin Laden.”