Zero Dark Thirty is an interesting film to review. I have to assume that while some will see it as a testament to the tenacity and resourcefulness of the American Intelligence community to track down and eliminate one of the greatest enemies of it's existence, others will see it as a condemnation of some of the methods used to do so. As such director, Katherine Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), walks a bit of a political tightrope in making this film. Some have even suggested that it's the very reason that she and fellow filmmaker, Ben Affleck, who's film Argo also takes a pro CIA stance, were subsequently snubbed by the Academy this Oscar season. Regardless of your political views however, if this film is judged on it's own merit as entertainment and not as a historical document I think it becomes pretty clear that Bigelow is on top of her game.
The film tells the story of the decade long search for Bin Laden after the attack on the WTC on 911. It spans the globe from the US to Pakistan by way of several undisclosed CIA Black Sites, as a team of agents track and capture known terrorists, money men, a doctor and eventually Bin Laden's personal courier to the famous compound that was eventually infiltrated by SEAL Team Six last summer. The beginning of the film also reveals some of the questionable tactics used to get information from them in places like Git-mo and Abu Ghraib before everything went sideways and politicians and oversight committees got involved in the process. I think there's been more than enough debate on the politics and the morality of such things over the years, but what can't be questioned is that Bigelow's film takes the audience on a thrilling ride. This film covers so much ground that it would be very easy to lose an audience in the details, but it's tight and well paced. Everything feels authentic, yet it's a pretty straightforward narrative. It's also well acted. While I'm not sure her performance was necessarily Best Actress worthy, Jessica Chastain does a fine job as an agent who was recruited out of high school and spent the lion's share of her twelve years in the agency hunting Bin Laden, often following leads that others dismissed. If she deserves the nomination however than I believe that one should've also been extended to the always solid, Jason Clarke, who played the lead interrogator who continued to back her play even after returning to Langley. The star of the show is SEAL Team Six, led by Joel Edgerton and Chris Pratt as Squad Team Leader, Patrick and DEVGRU, Justin respectively. While I wish this film focused a bit more on Six and a little less on the CIA (if for no other reason than to see more of those kick ass, stealth choppers) it does a fine job of building the story to the eventual payoff. I'm not sure that Zero Dark Thirty eclipses Bigelow's last film, but it's further proof that she's more than capable of playing with the big boys.
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