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Film Review: 'Zero Dark Thirty'

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  • | 5:00 a.m. January 16, 2013
Jessica Chastain as CIA operative Maya in "Zero Dark Thrity."
Jessica Chastain as CIA operative Maya in "Zero Dark Thrity."
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The highly anticipated and already controversial film, “Zero Dark Thirty,” is the ultimate chick flick. It’s directed by Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow and stars Jessica Chastain as the CIA operative responsible for taking down Osama bin Laden. The lady makes big impressions in this powerful film.

The movie opens to a dark screen as we hear desperate voices from the twin towers. Suddenly, it fast-forwards two years later to an undisclosed CIA “black site,” where a terror suspect is being tortured. Maya (Chastain), a rookie CIA analyst, has just arrived and witnesses the brutality. There’s a look of reluctant approval on her face.

The suspect gives up the name of bin Laden’s courier, and Maya becomes obsessed with finding him. Her ferocious perseverance pays off years later and the link is established. Although, not with 100% certainty. It’s a hard sell to CIA Director Leon Panetta (gloriously portrayed by James Gandolfini) but in the end he comes around and the rest is history.

Although the outcome is a given, Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) has created an explosive piece of filmmaking which keeps us on the edge of our seats. The spine-tingling moment when we see the compound in Abbottabad, the audience knows all hell is about to break loose. We’re in on it, but petrified at the same time. A hand-held camera captures the action through green-hued night vision lenses and it’s riveting, as is Jessica Chastain’s performance.

Although she doesn’t portray Maya as an enigma, we know very little about her. It’s unnecessary to share her details because Chastain’s Maya is all about her steely mindset. Up until the closing scene, we see little emotion from Chastain. It’s meticulously controlled and yet secretly seething inside ... a perfect balance.

Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal are taking a lot of political heat for “Zero Dark Thirty.” It’s uncalled for in that the film does not take any political stands. Those are left up to the viewer. Regarding torture, Bigelow wisely cites, “Depiction is not an endorsement.” In fact, Boal based his script on interviews with military and intelligence officials directly involved in the search for bin Laden.

“Zero Dark Thirty” is a fact-based thriller which depicts the brutality and futility of war. But it also lends vast insight into the heroic actions and immense patriotism of human beings who are determined to protect our great nation.


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