Reviews & Previews - Zero Dark Thirty

Posted on Monday, January 14, 2013 at 05:00 PM

Zero Dark Thirty

Starring:  Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Running time: 157 minutes
Rated: R

Thrilling Manhunt

Kathryn Bigelow’s follow up to The Hurt Locker is an effective and engaging film about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. The movie manages to deliver a clear narrative and delivers suspenseful action in the last act.

Chastain stars as Maya, a fresh CIA recruit who is sent to Pakistan to aid in the search for Al Quada leaders in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks. The movie starts of with a stark reminder of those attacks through a series of recorded emergency messages from people in the buildings. Once on the ground she meets Dan (Clarke) a seasoned operative who is responsible for obtaining information from suspects through intense interrogations which may or may not cross the line into torture depending on who you ask.

The scenes are unflinching and the film itself makes no commentary on them, leaving the audience to decide for themselves what’s right or necessary which is a nice change. Maya quickly unravels a thread in the search for Bin Laden in her work and the the movie follows her progress over the next ten years as she doggedly pursues her lead to the point of obsession.

As everyone knows how the story turned out there could have been a let down in the final act when the attack happens but Bigelow does a great job in maintaining the tension in the long sequence. Watching through the night vision googles of the Seal team the audience is effectively drawn into the action on the screen. The eerie silence of the night without dramatic music also added to the scene.

The story behind the hunt for Bin Laden is not an easy one to tell, as one would expect from an operation that spanned ten years. Yet through it all the movie never gets bogged down in details. Everything is explained clearly and concisely and even with its long running time the story never ceases to move forward.

Chastain is excellent as Maya, an intelligent CIA operative with a one track mind. Maya is at times unlikable in her relentless pursuit but is unapologetic. Despite her toughness there is an element of sorrow we feel for this character who does not seem to have anything else in her life except for her job. Maya is fearsome and pathetic at the same time and Chastain plays both sides equally well.

Clarke is also very good as Dan, a sort of mentor to Maya who gets burned out by what his job requires of him. In one scene he jokes that he has seen “Way too many naked guys.” but we understand what he is really talking about as the CIA’s chief interrogator. Clarke doesn’t play the pity card though, he’s just a man who has had enough and is trying to find a way to deal with it.

Zero Dark Thirty is primarily a political thriller with a big action sequence. Some may complain its too “talky” but the dialogue is well written and delivered. This could be one of the best films this year so check it out.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

S. Tran also writes at, and



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