Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Kyle Chandler, Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Ehle and Jason Clarke
Right from the earliest scenes of her latest political thriller, director Kathryn Bigelow proves her skill at displaying raw human emotion in even the most heart-pounding sequences.
Working again with screenwriter Mark Boal, who penned the script of her Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, Bigelow has crafted one of the finest cinematic experiences of 2012.
Despite the swirl of controversy over the torture sequences -- an issue that hangs over the film like a wet blanket -- Zero Dark Thirty combines an investigative political thriller with a complex character study.
The film slowly unfurls over a span of 10 years; the length of time the in-depth manhunt for the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden took to reach its conclusion. While the subject is obviously derived from a true story, many will question its accuracy considering the shroud of secrecy that cloaked the government reports. However, although Bigelow and Boal insist they interviewed pivotal figures involved in bin Laden's death, the debate over whether or not the film is entirely based on reality is ultimately irrelevant.
What Bigelow has created is a plausible scenario that has scenes of action, interrogation and government verbal battles that all brim with complex decisions made by people who are neither good nor evil. Nothing is black and white in Zero Dark Thirty and every action can be called into question.
At the centre of the investigation is Maya (Jessica Chastain), a new CIA recruit sent to close in on bin Laden and bring the world's most wanted man to justice. Along the way she is faced with government suits (led by Kyle Chandler as U.S. Embassy chief in Pakistan, Joseph Bradley) who shoot down her theories and suppositions on the whereabouts of bin Laden. Her frustration is palpable at times, but her steely resolve pushes her through to the end.
Zero Dark Thirty plays out like a documentary, all of which is told from Maya's point of view. While we do eventually meet the Navy SEAL team that ultimately take down bin Laden, it's all through shadows and night-vision goggles.
Whether or not Zero Dark Thirty walks away from the Oscars as a big winner still remains to be seen, but there's no denying its smart script and note-worthy performances, all of which speaks to various important issues we confront in our news on a daily basis.
FINAL GRADE: A