Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty, or How Bigelow & Chastain kick ass

Zero Dark Thirty
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Written by: Mark Boal
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Jennifer Ehle, Mark Strong, Joel Edgerton & Chriss Pratt.

Oscar Nominations: 5
Best Sound Editing, Best Editing, Best Original Screenplay (Mark Boal), Best Actress (Jessica Chastain) & Best Picture.

Bigelow's follow-up to her Academy Award winning The Hurt Locker is a chilling look into the ten year search that led to the death of Osama Bin Laden. Seen through the eyes of Maya (Chastain as a cipher of a woman single-mindedly intent on finishing the job), the film is a fascinating clinical take on post-9/11 counter-terrorism. Eschewing the very jingoistic fervor that fueled and financed the entire operation (including the grueling enhanced interrogation scenes which open the film), Bigelow and Boal aim instead for a cerebral procedural with a hell of an action sequence at Bin Laden's compound. That the film prefers to pause on the red tape and bureaucratic systems of the operation rather than on hollow cheers of success when the most wanted man in the United States is at last shot dead already signals to any potential political message this explosive film may hold.

Armed with an impressive ensemble cast (Ehle's Jessica and Clarke's Dan nicely play off of Chastain's Maya), this is by far my favorite film in the Oscar Best Picture conversation. It is thrilling, unflinching, obsessive (almost to a fault some may say), and ambivalent towards both its subjects and its subject matter, making its opening moments -- real-life phone calls to 911 from people in the towers right before they went down -- that much more powerful. A+

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