Movie Review: Zero Dark Thirty

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Damn the controversy!  See the film!

“Zero Dark Thirty” is the mostly true story of how the CIA eventually caught up with the world’s most famous terrorist, Osama Bin Laden.  Director/Producer Kathryn Bigelow has said on many occasions that the usual dramatic licence was taken with her story, as with other movies based on true events.  But, that her film is a mostly accurate telling of the long and painful (literally painful) process of analyzing intelligence from Taliban and Al Qaeda detainees.

I won’t even get into the argument that the film might be pro-torture.  Since “enhanced interrogation techniques” were an acknowledged policy of the Bush Administration and the successful tracking of Bin Laden took over a decade, then it’s reasonable to assume that torture was used to get some of the early intelligence.  It appears to me that the filmmakers were simply incorporating this into the story.  Enough said.

Jessica Chastain plays Maya, a young CIA officer assigned exclusively to finding intelligence on Al Qaeda and its leader, Bin Laden.  She visits CIA black sites, where a detainee linked to several Saudi terrorists is being questioned (water boarded, etc.).  When the detainee is tricked into revealing a key fact, Maya spends the next ten years trying to build on the link that could lead to Bin Laden’s whereabouts.  The trail goes cold more than once.

Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have made an amazing film.  It’s a mystery, a thriller and finally a stunningly photographed military raid.  We know how this movie ends yet we hang on to the edge of our seats like we’re experiencing the events first hand.  The nearly three-hour run time feels like no time at all.

Chastain’s performance is well worth noting.  Maya is the emotional link to the audience and she carries us along with flying colors.  We feel for her.  We sense her frustration, the disbelief, the disgust, the anger and finally, the stunned elation over playing a key role in bringing the world’s most notorious terrorist to justice.

Like Bigelow’s earlier effort, “The Hurt Locker,” this film deserves the title of  “Best Picture.”  “Zero Dark Thirty” is that good.  Grade: A+

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