Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012)

Another effective dramatization of an indisputably important event in world history, Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to The Hurt Locker is keen-minded and attentive to detail if unavoidably familiar. Focusing heavily on the individual(s) responsible for putting an end to “the greatest manhunt in history,” Zero Dark Thirty deftly zips along a carefully plotted post-9/11 timeline to tell us exactly what we want to know.

Being that affiliations were the best link to those associated with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the film steadfastly highlights the procedural highs and seedy, frequently (and literally) torturous lows of an arduous, decade-long process. As to be expected, tensions remain high throughout as they should, conveying a sense of urgency whenever possible to hold our attention even though Maya (Jessica Chastain) and company’s efforts spanned the entirety of the period in question.

Avoiding an overly pro-American sentimentality despite the mission at its core, Zero Dark Thirty sticks to the facts, embracing the actuality behind the events on display and avoiding the realm of the heavy-handed. Unfortunately, this means we’re not given much to work with in terms of multifaceted characters and genuine human emotion – something that Bigelow’s previous effort sported a slight abundance of. Even still, the film remains compelling at frequent junctures as Maya’s steel resolve and unbreakable determination pave the way toward one lead after another in the manhunt to end all manhunts.

In light of an obvious adherence to the occasionally mundane, the talk of the town recently has been very third act-centric, of which refers to the raid on Bin Laden’s presumed place of residence conducted by the fabled SEAL Team 6. Of course the events that ensue easily overshadow that of what precedes them – and for good reason – but without giving too much away, an unflinching recreation of said raid benchmarks what’s otherwise an above average retelling of a more recent if increasingly important sect of human history.

All things considered, Zero Dark Thirty is an inherently compelling dramatization based on the testy subject matter Bigelow and the gang have chosen to document. Despite concerns about its depiction of torture, the film builds competently enough toward an almost overwhelmingly strong final stretch, overshadowing but not putting to shame the importance of other events. This in mind, Zero Dark Thirty literally can’t avoid the familiarity coinciding with Maya’s persisting efforts, what with the inner workings of these various US government sects being illustrated elsewhere as of late, and even still, the film as a whole is too important to discredit. It’s dramatically and technically sound, unbiased regarding its narrative and wholly engrossing wherever it counts, thus making Zero Dark Thirty one of the better reality-inspired productions to come around since, well, The Hurt Locker.


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