October 6, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 47°F


Review: Compelling film revisits military operation

Following along with this year’s tradition, as set by films such as “Argo” and “Lincoln,” of cinema inspired by history, “Zero Dark Thirty” brilliantly conveys what is arguably one of the most important historical events in recent decades. Easily among the most engaging and intelligent of this year’s movies, Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film is sure to captivate and entertain.

The plot of the film takes place over the last decade and concerns the events leading up to the death of Osama bin Laden. As the pursuit progresses, the story of FBI agent Maya (Jessica Chastain), who has spent her entire career tracking the al-Qaida leader, also unfolds. Beginning right after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and stretching up until the actual operation carried out by Seal Team Six, the movie includes most of the major turning points in the chase for bin Laden. At the same time as these events are unfolding, Maya continually places her entire life’s focus and ambition into tracking down bin Laden.

The cast consists of Chastain and supporting characters that come and go as her character’s central story progresses. In her role, Chastain gives a highly memorable performance through vivid amounts of intense focus and occasional outbursts of raw emotion. Unlike many of her previous roles, in this film, Chastain’s excellence stems from her ability to garner emotional reactions simply by realistically responding to the situations her character is faced with, such as the loss of a co-worker or coping with the frustration of a dead end in her job to find bin Laden.

Mark Boal’s script, an Academy Award nominee this year, helps to drive the fast pace of the film, while at the same time staying consistent with believable dialogue. The entire work is devoid of any clichés that would detract from the truth in the story.

Bigelow, who won the Academy Award for her direction of “The Hurt Locker” in 2009, succeeds again in her familiar territory of military-centered films by including an almost documentary style to the production. By focusing on the true historical events and allowing for the emotion to come naturally as it would in real life, Bigelow creates a highly effective method of storytelling in both quality and in ability to be thought provoking. Her fast-paced cuts evoke a sense of urgency in the film that leaves the audience in a perpetual state of suspense, despite the fact that they will go in already knowing the ending.

Bigelow opts to boldly recreate the entire, real-time sequence of the Navy operation in which bin Laden was killed. The highly detailed segment includes even the most minuscule moments and yet amazingly never loses any of the momentum.

The tremendous reality within all aspects of “Zero Dark Thirty” helps to make it into a gripping portrayal of an immensely important moment in recent history. With Chastain’s powerhouse leading performance, Bigelow’s driven direction and Boal’s realistic script, the film culminates as one of the best movies of the year, as well as a definite must-see.

Rating 3.5 Stars

Director Kathryn Bigelow recreates the events leading up to the death of al-Qaida leader, Osama bin Laden.