Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

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Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Written by: Mark Boal
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, Jason Clarke, Reda Kateb, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Ehle, Harold Perrineau, Jeremy Strong, Mark Strong and a host of others

Oscar Nominations:  Editing, Sound Editing, Original screenplay, Actress (Jessica Chastain), Picture

It’s been a bit of a scramble to get all of the Oscar nominated movies under my belt before the big day.  In the last 24 hours I’ve watched two Oscar nominated films deeply seeded in American history.  Here, Kathryn Bigelow’s drama about one woman’s dedication to the hunt for Osama bin Laden is focused on the tactical steps leading up to his death.  The movie is riddled with familiar faces but the focus here is on the story, which is deftly told.

What I liked:  Jessica Chastain is excellent as the CIA agent obsessed with a seemingly insignificant lead to bin Laden.  Bigelow does little here to develop her character and all the nuance in Chastain’s performance comes from her reaction to harrowing events which slowly and seamlessly evolve.  It is made clear in the final scene that this was Bigelow’s intention and it is expertly executed.  She also does well to hire well-known actors who bring some recognition to characters who are only on screen for a short while but with whom we nevertheless feel connected.  My hat is also off to Jason Clarke who has received little recognition for this role but who managed to engage our attention through some very difficult scenes.  I was disappointed to see his role diminish during the course of the film.  The writing and editing are also commendable as they incorporate a decade of complex details through smooth transitions that move forward to a strong climax.  My heart was pounding as we embarked on the final crusade.

What I didn’t like:  I like character development so the distance the audience is kept from the characters left me a little cold, although it may be a testament to Bigelow’s skills that she intentionally tried to uphold some form of objectivity here.   There were also so many details that I was often lost during the first half of the film.

My rating: I’m surprised by how little I found to critique.

IMDB: 7.6

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%

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