‘Zero Dark Thirty’ dramatizes CIA, SEALs in thrilling fashion

Jessica Chastain in ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’ Rated R, 157 min. Columbia Pictures, 2012.

The tough, no-nonsense filmmaking of director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal – both Oscar winners for “The Hurt Locker” – sets the tone of “Zero Dark Thirty.” It is single-minded and realistic in its depiction of U.S. defense personnel at work, and unrelentingly suspenseful. It may not be the easiest subject matter to watch, but “Zero Dark Thirty” is one of the best and most important films of the year.

Bigelow has the audacity and confidence needed to tackle nothing less than the hunting and killing of Osama bin Laden, a figure who looms over the film with barely any screen time at all. The film smartly narrows its focus to the life of CIA agent Maya (Jessica Chastain), who dedicates 10 years to the search, which culminates in the famous 2011 Navy SEAL midnight raid on a compound in Pakistan.

Based on true events, the movie is challenging on many levels, including torturous interrogation scenes and lots of insidery intelligence jargon. The movie’s shining moment is the fantastically thrilling final sequence. You know what happens, but the film puts you inside the action, and Chastain makes you feel every stinging second alongside her.

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