Three years ago, director Kathryn Bigelow cleaned up at the 82nd Academy Awards as her powerful Iraq War drama, “The Hurt Locker”, won six Oscars including Best Picture (and she won for Best Director). In 2012, Bigelow brings us another gripping story from the Middle East, and this time she recreates the manhunt for Osama bin Laden.
10. "Zero Dark Thirty" - It took nearly 10 years for the United States to find the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and the person leading the chase was an extremely bright woman named Maya (Jessica Chastain).
Recruited by the CIA out of high school, Maya’s sole self-defined purpose of her existence is to find Osama bin Laden, and she explains to her director (James Gandolfini) that searching for this man is the only job she’s ever had.
Chastain plays Maya with an unrelenting tenaciousness.
She’s young, but hasn’t yet been beaten down by bureaucracy and the disappointments of office politics, and blazes her own path within the agency while also utilizing the resources it can provide.
Some of Maya’s colleagues call her “a killer”, but it’s this specific trait which allows her to see clearly. Chastain’s Maya is extremely good at working through procedural red tape with polite sternness at times, but in other specific key moments, she can effectively deliver blunt and harsh messages to get what she needs.
With an insanely complicated catacombs of clues and misdirections, tracking down bin Laden can make your head spin, so the film follows a chronology from September 2001 to May 2011 in a chapter-like format to map the CIA’s winding journey.
The structure works particularly well as the audience is presented with specific events like "The Meeting" or "Human Error”, however I had a difficult time following the reams of data the film provides.
I would advise to not worry about the details, but instead absorb the movie’s dark and serious tones.
Bigelow throws us on a seemingly hapless wild goose chase, but this allows us a small look into the mazes and dead-ends many smart people in U.S. government agencies experienced.
Everything in the picture feels authentic, and that unfortunately includes secret black sites and torture, and specifically, water-boarding.
“Zero Dark Thirty” is a serious and taut movie experience, and even though know we know how this story arc will end, the picture leaves you wondering, “Now what?”
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