James Camerons ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow has once again stepped up to plate, and knocked it outta the damn park. This woman is incredibly talented behind the camera and she seems to be on the verge of a cinematic winning streak, with this film following hot on the heels of The Hurt Locker (2008). With regards to her filmography, it’s very clear that she has the chops to sit at the (largely) male-dominated Action/Drama table…and to very capably surpass many of her peers (cry NOW, Michael Bay!). Films like Near Dark (1987), Blue Steel (1989), Point Break (1991), and Strange Days (1995) just help solidify proof of her skills. Zero Dark Thirty follows a young and untried CIA analyst as she is pulled head-long into the hunt for Osama Bin Laden following 9/11. As the story plays out over a near 10 year period, we see her character hardening and weakening all at once as the unsavory elements of the job mix with her absolute determination to find the alleged mastermind of 9/11 tragedies, and to “kill him”. Bigelow injects the film with a very admirable amount of grit and realism, not to mention a shitload of really effective scenes of gripping suspense, while giving the proceedings a very appropriate documentary feel. I find it interesting that the US Government had ‘issue’ with the amount of believable events, technical details (love the Area 51 stealth copters!) and repellent actions taken by the ‘heroes'(flick opens with a harsh torture/interrogation scene); not so much because they’re trying to protect their already tarnished image but more due to how much actual information regarding the supposedly ‘Classified’ operation seems to have made it on to the movie screen. The version of the events shown here works for me, especially when I distinctly remember elements that made it into the news that I then saw recreated here. Adding to the well-presented/researched script and the near-perfect style of cinematography, Bigelow has also shrewdly populated her film with a terrific cast. As the lead character Maya, Jessica Chastain is great. She shows a lot of range and her interactions with the varying people along with way have a naturalistic ‘air’ about them. Others that turn up are Mark Strong, James Gandolfini, Edgar Ramirez, Stephen Dillane, Jason Clarke and Harold Perrineau, and they’re all solid. Even if you choose to not believe this version of how Bin Ladins assassination went down, Zero Dark Thirty is a kick-ass espionage/military thriller. Some of it is a little harsh (again, the torture) but the way that certain scenes are executed are masterful lessons in tension building. Bigelows grasp of ratcheting up the suspense is amazing and to allow yourself to get sucked into this story is surprisingly rewarding, as movie-going experiences rank. Zero Dark Thirty, in my humble opinion, is a VERY good film that plays the ‘Escapist Entertainment’ and ‘Social Enlightenment’ cards equally well. Certainly worth a look.
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