Rant and Rave: ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

Rating: 3.5

Roughly two years removed from the death of Al-Qaeda Head Osama Bin Laden, Academy Award Winning Director Kathyrn Bigelow (Hurt Locker) explores the circumstances that led to his demise and the manhunt that preceded it in the Oscar-Nominated film (Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Screenplay) Zero Dark Thirty.

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

Using first-hand interviews, news articles and alleged access to classified documents as source material, Bigelow has pieced together a well-crafted and engaging film that grips you right from the opening sequence.

From the haunting audio clips of 911 calls coming from people trapped in the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks, to the scenes of a prisoner being mercilessly tortured and interrogated at the hands of a CIA operative, to the riveting climax at the Al Qaeda Leader’s compound, Bigelow creates a gritty, no-nonsense atmosphere that reflects not just the film, but the real-life pursuit of Bin Laden itself.

Perhaps best reflective of this is the film’s strong cast.

With inspired performances by cast members such as Jason Clarke (Public Enemies) and Kyle Chandler (Super 8, Argo), the film is left with little dull moments. Clarke plays CIA Officer Dan who is tasked with the interrogation of prisoners in CIA’s black site in Pakistan. With Dan’s mercilessness and morally questionable behavior throughout, Clarke’s performance makes it difficult not to be engaged by his character’s sheer drive. Chandler’s performance as CIA Islamabad Station Chief Joseph Bradley, on the other hand, leaves the viewer dismayed at the lack of screen time of the aforementioned character in crucial parts of the film.

But perhaps what shines through the most is Jessica Chastain’s performance as CIA Operative Maya, the film’s main protagonist.  Arriving as a newcomer in Pakistan with the sole task of helping find Bin Laden, the investigation’s many dead ends and hurdles transforms the once-idealistic and soft spoken Maya into a frustrated, but determined animal who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Chastain channels this almost perfectly, leaving even the most critical of American foreign policy sympathetic to her cause.

Overall, Zero Dark Thirty is a must-watch, not just for those interested in the themes and controversies explored in the film, but for anyone who enjoys movies in general. It is a movie that will likely be discussed in years to come, given the many questions still left unanswered regarding its subject matter.

Jan-Ace Mendoza

By Jan-Ace Mendoza

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