Film Review: Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark ThirtyKathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty is a thoroughly absorbing thriller. Bigelow’s film is excellent.

Following the World Trade Centre attack in 2001, CIA Operative Maya takes part in the interrogation of suspects thought to have links with Al Qaeda. Maya is unflinching in her pursuit to uncover the whereabouts Osama Bin Laden, even when her colleagues wish to concentrate on other targets. Despite her colleagues and superiors’ dubiety, Maya thinks she has found the link to Bin Laden…

It would be impossible to depict a truly authentic account of what happened in the CIA post 9/11 with the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Nevertheless, Zero Dark Thirty offers a plausible depiction, and perhaps as realistic a portrayal as Hollywood can deliver.

The focus in Zero Dark Thirty remains on the events rather than the individuals. This is wise, given how little is known about the real people involved. Nonetheless, Maya is an interesting protagonist. Although screenwriter Mark Boal does not offer viewers much of a background, Maya is still compelling due to her dogged determination.

The pacing of Zero Dark Thirty maintains the audience’s attention, despite a long running time. The film features the downtime of fact finding and surveillance interspersed with scenes of heightened tension. It follows a rhythm with the interrogation at the beginning, the leg work (with the aforementioned tense moments) and a gripping finale.

Kathryn Bigelow exhibited her flair for directing suspense with 2008’s The Hurt Locker. Zero Dark Thirty is no different, with editing, camera work and sound being used to great effect. Jessica Chastain is excellent as Maya; the actress deserves the praise and accolades she has hitherto received. The supporting cast including Jason Clarke, Mark Strong and others are also great.

Kathryn Bigelow has taken a story that everyone knows the end to and fleshed it out, giving context and depth beyond the headline. Zero Dark Thirty is highly recommended.

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