Monday, December 24, 2012

Movie with Abe: Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Released December 19, 2012

Kathryn Bigelow is definitely one of the hottest filmmakers currently working, highly respected for her groundbreaking Oscar win for Best Director for “The Hurt Locker” three years ago. Anticipation over her follow-up project, which documents the run-up to the operation that killed Obama bin Laden, was rewarded with the release of this film’s trailer in August. What Bigelow and her screenwriter Mark Boal have crafted is a sophisticated, comprehensive, gripping chronicle of an extensive program that took almost a decade to see true success, a devastating and entirely captivating portrait of life in the trenches lived with an immutable spirit of determination.

Bigelow chose a strong story to echo her own history-making Oscar win as the first woman to claim the Best Director prize. Jessica Chastain, who had a banner year in 2011 with six major performances, stars as Maya, who is sent to Pakistan after the September 11th attacks and takes an interest in locating one terrorist that all of the members of Bin Laden’s organization seem to know. Her obsession with finding him is established through lengthy time jumps, checking in at crucial, often deadly, points of the operation, demonstrating setbacks and the unbelievably slow nature of the process. The film’s conclusion may be inevitable, but the road there is equally compelling and worthwhile.

Like two other Oscar contenders this year, “Argo” and “Lincoln,” “Zero Dark Thirty” is littered with familiar faces. Among the ensemble can be found Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, Kyle Chandler, Mark Duplass, Edgar Ramirez, Harold Perrineau, and James Gandolfini, and the film includes standout supporting performances from Jason Clarke as a skilled interrogator and Mark Strong as Maya’s stateside boss. The actors are used to tremendous effect to create a cohesive picture of all that went into the search and ultimately the raid that killed the target at the top of everyone’s list. Chastain in particular delivers a stunning performance, truly capturing the exhaustion and passion of someone set on the same goal despite countless obstacles.

There is violence, death, and torture to be found throughout “Zero Dark Thirty.” The film has come under fire for its depiction of torture, with politicians calling it both inaccurate and excessive. Yet the film doesn’t attempt to aggrandize or legitimize the practice, rather to tell a story about a painstakingly long and tragedy-filled process. The film is based on facts and does not claim to represent them in full. “Zero Dark Thirty” bears some noticeable similarities to Showtime’s entirely fictionalized hit “Homeland,” and it’s intriguing to see a more tempered and subdued yet equally thrilling depiction of the war on terror. The film is respectful and powerful, unflinching and gritty, and it’s rare to find a film that doesn’t let up once during an 157-minute runtime. As it tests the waters with a five-screen limited release for the end of the year before a wide release on January 14th, “Zero Dark Thirty” is sure to be rightly appreciated as one of the strongest and most effective films of the year.


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