‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Review

Kathryn Bigelow adds yet another meaningful thrilling piece to her collection.

Zero Dark Thirty

From its opening sequence, this film indeed means business. Throwing you straight into the deep end of moral and ethical issues of heavy handed use of war prisoners, in a story that has dominated the media for over a decade, seems to be director Kathryn Bigelow‘s sole intention to grab you. Being no stranger to creating drama from the human effects of something as huge as politics and conflict, this can very much be seen as a companion piece to her team’s last war-torn outing The Hurt Locker, except this time the stakes are much, much higher.

CIA operative Maya (played by Jessica Chastain) oversees intelligence gathering over a ten year period, following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, making Al-Qaeda head Osama Bin Laden top of her list. With the powers that be losing ever-growing faith in his capture, and information coming so scarce, it’s her overwhelming belief at seeing the job through that might just result in catching her target.

Given its subject matter, whichever side of the fence you may stand, the brave aspect the film achieves is its openness to exploit wrong doings. Early scenes of torture and interrogation are tough and the camera doesn’t shy away from that, but yet it gets over that aspect pretty quick without it lingering on. Reminding us of the lengths greater powers would go to obtain information, whilst slowly coming to terms with lessons learnt as the movie progresses. But even more of an achievement is this brooding presence as the movie sets out nearer to it’s final act, as though Bigelow is inviting you to come witness history in the making. For such an event that took place behind closed doors and without the prying eye of the world’s media would draw you in anyway, in a sense all knowing what happens in the end, but it’s to the film’s credit that it does so much more than that.

With so much ambiguity and false knowledge in the air from our characters, Bigelow brings you to the point of not knowing what’s around the corner, despite the fact you indeed know the outcome, adding to a sort of documentary feel of real events. In relation to the director’s previous work, the subtle use of relatively unknown actors in its action moments work really well again, as the audience is completely stripped from knowing their fate. Give a Hollywood A-list the chance to save the day and you know he’ll come out fine, but here nothing is certain, non more-so than the great moments of underlying tension that Bigelow does so wonderful time and time again, slowly building to conclusions that play with the very essence of doubt and fears.

Jessica Chastain steals the show, it’s her journey and her impact on those around her that deliver the great drama. A woman set on bringing justice to her home country whilst unsure of how it would effect her personally when all is said and done. She’s able to carry the weight of knowing what her task implies whilst having to sacrifice her social life for the greater cause, set out to become the all American hero. Even the ever reliable Mark Strong, an actor who can almost play anyone from anywhere on a globe, whose sudden appearance gives the film an even healthier shot in the arm as his mere presence ups the tone noticeably.

It’s gripping, intriguing and addressed the vital matters that come with it. Plaudits too going to collaborating screenwriter Mark Boal whose dialogue hits home when it needs to. Whilst she may lay out the trauma and fallout of war defiantly, she yet again leaves her main character’s experience open for you to ponder over. One thing is for sure though, Kathryn Bigelow has added yet another meaningful thrilling work to her collection.