Zero Dark Thirty Review

Story by Joseph Swit, Staff Writer

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From beginning to end ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ manages to thrill and inform its audience.  We follow the decade long manhunt for Osama Bin Laden through the eyes of CIA analyst Maya (Jessica Chastain) as she explores lead after lead on her determined quest to find the Al-Qaeda leader.   The film is directed by Kathryn Bigelow, whose previous film ‘The Hurt Locker’ captured Best Picture honors at the Oscars in 2010. Bigelow, never one to shy aware from controversy, pulls no punches when it comes to depicting scenes of torture.

These torture scenes are difficult to watch but the film doesn’t overplay them.  Rather, the scenes, which we see from the point of view of Maya serve to add a touch of humanity to an otherwise disturbing experience.   By seeing this soft spoken woman witness these interrogations, we are shown a character with real emotion and internal conflict who we can relate to in film full of military stiffs.  These scenes heighten the tension we feel experiencing the inside story of the Bin Laden manhunt.

Bigelow takes us from the onset of the War on Terror right up through the fateful raid in May 2011.  Along the way we see Maya experience tragedy, triumph and setbacks in her quest to find Bin Laden. We are exposed to a softer, more human side of a complicated saga providing for a compelling narrative throughout.  As Maya, Chastain provides a powerhouse performance worthy of an Oscar later this month, bringing vulnerability and sheer determination to the film.  As the audience, we find ourselves rooting for her character all the way.

The film naturally comes to a head during the raid on Bin Laden’s compound.  Even though we know the outcome, the brutal realism Bigelow employs in her direction serves to put us right in the center of the action, and gives us a true front row seat to history.  Many will criticize it’s depictions of torture or its historical accuracy but as a pure film, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ hits the mark.  Though it’s not for the faint of heart, years from now we will probably look back on ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ as the definitive story of the epic hunt for the most wanted man of the century.

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