‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Movie Review – The Greatest Nailbiter
It might be a bit U.S.-centric to call the hunt for Osama bin Laden the “greatest manhunt in history.” However, whether you believe it or not, the United States of America has the most sheer power – whether warranted or not – so tracking down the man who killed over 3,000 Americans could very well be the “greatest” manhunt. Zero Dark Thirty is the fictionalized account of bin Laden’s death, and Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to The Hurt Locker adds the one thing it was missing before: reality (more on this later). Whether the story is 100% true or just 50%, the result is a stunning and intense depiction of the ten-year hunt for America’s greatest modern enemy.
Starting with a blank screen and September 11’s date, Zero Dark Thirty goes from the inception of The War on Terror to bin Laden’s death. It centers around a team of characters, with the most notable operative being Maya (Jessica Chastain) who dedicated her career to finding bin Laden.
The movie is inherently controversial not just because of the overall nature of the story, but because of how it depicts both sides. One thing I thoroughly enjoyed about The Hurt Locker was its complete lack of agenda. Taking place in modern war, it must’ve been difficult to avoid all political avenues, but it succeeded in just that. Zero Dark Thirty, for the most part, skips the political stuff again. However, it doesn’t portray the U.S. in the most flattering light, especially when it comes to how they interrogated the other side.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a good thing. Whether it’s the “truth” or not doesn’t really matter, it’s more important to see our own country as a morally-gray nation, not the rainbows-and-butterflies one some believe.
Another thing The Hurt Locker was was a military drama. “Drama” being the key word because, while riveting and thought-provoking, the film wasn’t based on true events in the same sense. There was a degree of credibility to the writer (Mark Boal, who re-teams with Bigelow again), but the timeline wasn’t as strict.
And somehow it’s extremely (to the nth degree) intense. Much like this year’s Argo, Zero Dark Thirty is virtually impossible to spoil because we know (almost) exactly what happened (or will happen). You’d have to live in a fortress without cable, Internet, or etc. to be unaware of bin Laden’s death.
With that being said, I about chewed through all my fingernails by the end. The set-up isn’t quite as powerful – this is true for almost every movie – but the back half of the film picks up the slack. Once Maya gets her extra motivation to hunt and kill bin Laden, it picks up tremendously.
Chastain is to thank for this because she’s the all-star. Looking at her past (especially last year’s filmography), she’s become one of Hollywood’s premier actresses. Her performance here is a lock for all major awards categories – even if the field is a tad crowded with Jennifer Lawrence and Quvenzhané Wallis – and I’d be more than okay with her taking home the hardware.
Some of the rest of the crew includes Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Chris Pratt, and Kyle Chandler.
I thought Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker was an extremely candid and telling tale about what it’s like to be a soldier. And it’s unfair to compare Zero Dark Thirty against it, so I’ll just sit back and appreciate both of them for exactly what they are. The one hitting theaters this December is an intense portrait of the men and women behind bringing Osama bin Laden down. Even if this story is fictionalized a tad, the hardworking intel operatives deserve the recognition for the greatest takedown in the United States’ history. Zero Dark Thirty is exactly the movie we need to educate ourselves about these thankless heroes.
It was technically released on December 19th in L.A. and N.Y., but look for Zero Dark Thirty to get a wider release in early January.
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