Zero Dark Thirty Review
By Rich Cline
Blistering writing, directing and acting hold us firmly in our seats as this procedural drama snakes its way to a riveting action finale. Although it's sometimes not easy to know whether director Bigelow and writer Boal are celebrating or criticising the way America has conducted itself on the world stage in its war on terrorism. Clearly the characters believe that these dodgy methods are essential tools in their job. But the film cleverly respects and challenges our own views on the issues.
The story begins with the events of 9/11, after which the CIA is determined to track down Osama bin Laden. Spearheading the search is tenacious analyst Maya (Chastain), who works with her colleague Dan (Clarke) to interrogate prisoners and mobilise their team (including Ehle and Perrineau) to action. Their bosses (Chandler and Strong), the CIA director (Gandolfini) and the national security advisor (Dillane) offer support and challenges. And eventually they get approval to illegally send a black-op team into bin Laden's suspected hide-out in Pakistan.
It's astonishing that Boal and Bigelow have managed to tell this true story without taking sides. They have been criticised for possibly using classified details or for depicting torture as an interrogation tool, but the facts can't be denied just because we don't like them. And your attitude going in will probably colour how you feel about the movie: some will find this a story of triumph while others will be troubled by the methods it depicts. Either way, it's impossible to ignore the film's urgency as it pulls us into a fascinating story.
All of the actors give restless, compelling performances that we can identify with. At the centre, Chastain lets us see her doubts and insecurities, even as she hides them from everyone else. Clarke and Ehle are also superb as cohorts whose tireless optimism is both inspirational and a bit worrying. As with The Hurt Locker, Boal and Bigelow fill every scene with telling character details that make each outrageous situation believably real. Their unquestioning, documentary-style approach may disturb audience members who have a compassionate worldview, but it also gets our minds spinning as it follows true believers who might be just as fanatical as the people they're pursuing.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 11th January 2013
Box Office Worldwide: $138.8M
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Production compaines: First Light Production, Columbia Pictures, Annapurna Pictures
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 236 Rotten: 17
Cast & Crew
Starring: Jessica Chastain as Maya, Jason Clarke as Dan, Mark Strong as George, Joel Edgerton as Patrick - Squadron Team Leader, Chris Pratt as Justin - DEVGRU, Kyle Chandler as Joseph Bradley, Édgar Ramírez as Larry from Ground Branch, Mark Duplass as Steve, Scott Adkins as John, Jennifer Ehle as Jessica, Ricky Sekhon as Osama Bin Laden, Reda Kateb as Ammar, Harold Perrineau Jr. as Jack, Jeremy Strong as Thomas, J.J. Kandel as J.J., James Gandolfini as C.I.A. Director, Stephen Dillane as National Security Advisor, John Schwab as Deputy National Security Advisor, Martin Delaney as Assistant to National Security Advisor, John Barrowman as Jeremy, Jeff Mash as Deputy Director of C.I.A., Taylor Kinney as Jared - DEVGRU, Callan Mulvey as Saber - DEVGRU, Siaosi Fonua as Henry - DEVGRU, Phil Somerville as Phil - DEVGRU, Nash Edgerton as Nate - DEVGRU EOD, Mike Colter as Mike - DEVGRU, Jessica Collins as Debbie, Frank Grillo as Squadron Commanding Officer