Zero Dark Thirty
Starring Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke and Kyle Chandler
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Rated R for strong violence including brutal disturbing images, and for brief language
Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal were already hard at work on a project about a failed hit on Bin Laden directly after they finished teaming up for the Oscar-winner The Hurt Locker. But in 2010, when it was announced that Seal Team Six killed America’s enemy number one, they changed course and made the film about the successful mission as well as the person most responsible for the kill. Based on a true story about the intelligence going on behind the scenes for almost a decade before Bin Laden’s death, Zero Dark Thirty follows a young and committed CIA agent (Chastain) who is determined to track down a courier that most think is dead, but who she knows is the key to solving the mystery of the target’s location.
This is a film that is largely familiar to most of the world. It starts with two planes crashing into the twin towers and ends with Americans raiding a compound in Pakistan. But the details are what make this film so interesting and even if this is a completely fictional account, it seems true and our need to fill in the gaps will cause what I think will be a massive audience to see this much anticipated film.
Thankfully the movie is very good. Technically it is well-crafted, intense and extremely well-paced for a two-and-a-half hour long picture. It helps to have a talented team lead by Bigelow and Boal. When you get a chemistry like this between a writer and a director, you many times end up with a trophy or two. Everyone involved in the production brought their A-game. But then it also helps to have an extremely talented cast. The character of Maya, masterfully played here by Chastain, is one of the strongest heroines I have seen in recent years and a real role model for young girls, or at least the ones allowed to see R-rated films. I was also deeply impressed with the performance of Jason Clarke as her counterpart in the CIA. He may not be getting the nominations we’re seeing right now from Chastain, but his work in this film gives the movie authenticity and power from the very beginning.
Perhaps the most important facet of the film is the raid on Bin Laden’s compound which takes place in the third act. Painstakingly researched, the production succeeds here in giving an accurate representation of the events of that night in a way that will be hard to shake from your mind. It’s hard to replace the deaths of over 3,000 with just one, but the closure and relief you get from watching this scene is palpable. A