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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » Zero Dark Thirty
Zero Dark Thirty
Columbia/Tri-Star // R // December 19, 2012
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted December 18, 2012 | E-mail the Author
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The movie industry is always changing with a large amount of films being released each year. Some people have difficulty keeping up with the new releases and with what they should see, since a lot of people have busy schedules. While there are several great movies every year, there's always a few releases that are classified as absolute must-see motion pictures. Zero Dark Thirty is on the very top of that list for the year of 2012. Director Kathryn Bigelow has made a film that easily surpasses her acclaimed picture The Hurt Locker. It's being released on December 19th in limited theaters, but is going wide on January 11th, 2013.

Maya (Jessica Chastain) is a young talent that Washington has sent to help in the chronicle of the hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. The film follows the timeline after the 2001 attacks until the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6's raid on Osama bin Laden in May, 2011, as we follow the events based off of the actual events. The goal takes this elite team of intelligence and military operatives across the globe in order to find any shred of evidence as to where the world's most dangerous man is hiding.

The film opens with a pitch black screen, as we begin to hear 9-1-1 calls made on September 11, 2001 overlapped. It's a horrifying opening clip, as we hear the utter fear and anguish in their voices and the absolute chaos that ensues. Director Kathryn Bigelow uses this as a precursor for how the movie is going to play out and for us to feel the emotions we did back in 2001. Therefore, we're able to be on the same page as the operatives in each particular scene. As the movie continues, we're provided with discussions between Maya and the other investigators, as well as interrogations of those who might be associated with the target. It's startling footage that will keep every moviegoer's eyes glued to the screen and sitting at the edge of their seat. The remainder of the film is split up into sections, which are labeled by certain key phrases spoken by the characters. Even when the film transitions to the next section, audiences never get a single moment to relax their nerves until the credits begin rolling.

Writer Mark Boal has delivered a masterful script. He will provide audiences with the "fly-on-the-wall effect," which is incredibly difficult for most screenwriters to achieve. He makes every line of dialogue feel so smooth and genuine that it doesn't feel like we're watching a movie. The pacing is just as marvelous, as it doesn't slow down for a single moment. The running time of 157 minutes might sound like a long time, but Bigelow and Boal somehow manage to make it slide by extremely quickly. While there aren't a lot of main characters, Maya is handled with such a high amount of precision that there's no need for them. Without saying very much about her past, we get a peek into her persona. Maya begins to break down from the stress and anger of the ongoings of the mission. Audiences witness and experience the emotional heartbreak through this portrayal of the world's biggest manhunt.

Kathryn Bigelow has worked well with this incredibly talented cast. Jessica Chastain plays our lead character, Maya. Her performance could easily be seen as the best of the year. She's absolutely convincing and delivers every word of dialogue cohesively. I wouldn't be surprised to see her take home the Oscar for Best Actress, since she's so natural on screen. Jason Clarke does a great job as Dan, one of her co-workers on the project. He handles the majority of the interrogations and aids in making every one of them feel real. Jennifer Ehle is Jessica, who works with Maya and ultimately becomes friends with her. She connects with Chastain on screen, as they convey an intelligence team very well. Kyle Chandler is believable in the role of Joseph Bradley, who is handling the operation on site. This cast is outstanding and makes the portrayal of these events feel even more realistic.

The visuals take us to the place and time of the events. Director Kathryn Bigelow paid close attention to the smallest of details to give us the atmosphere of what state the given parts of the world were in at the time. There was a lot of detail put into the costumes of every character, including the extras. The visuals kicked into high gear in the final act, which is when the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 invaded Osama bin Laden's fortress. The majority of this section was shot in night-vision from the perspective of the men in combat. The audio is just as crucial as the visuals in this instance, as every gunshot and explosion hits its audiences with an impact that you'll never get used to. It's loud, authentic, and startling. I wouldn't expect any less from the woman who was behind the camera for The Hurt Locker.

Some movies are bad, others are good, and much fewer are absolutely outstanding. This is the movie we've been waiting for all year. It's an emotionally charged feature with a strong screenplay that utilizes dialogue as an art form in a way that would make all of the other writers in Hollywood jealous. This 157-minute roller coaster deserves to sweep the floor at the Academy Awards, but it's unlikely. Jessica Chastain is brilliant as Maya, and I hope that she's titled Best Actress with the award season coming up. I'm aware that I didn't mention a single flaw about this film in my review, but that's just it - I wouldn't change a thing. Zero Dark Thirty is most certainly the best film of 2012, making it an absolute must-see!

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