Zero Dark Thirty tells the story of the decade-long manhunt for terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden. It is a completely engrossing look into the people involved in the operation and the methods employed by them that eventually lead to Bin Laden’s discovery and death, ten years after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The film is cut up into different segments, with each segment chronicling a different period of time and event that helped push forward (but often backwards) the discovery of the notorious terrorist leader. There are several occurrences in the film, where it feels like progress has been made, but which then only leads to a dead-end. It is at times a frustrating journey we are taken on that mirrors that of the lead character.
Jessica Chastain plays Maya, the head agent of the operation to find Bin Laden. Her portrayal of the ultra-determined agent is her finest yet, as she provides a brilliantly captivating character for the audience to connect with. The frustrations Maya and her ensemble face are shared with the audience. Jason Clarke, who plays the CIA operative Dan, is also outstanding. His character is often tasked with performing difficult and unnerving interrogations, including ones that involve the torture of his captives. Considering the actions he has to undertake, his character is extremely likeable and down to earth. Chastain and Clarke are the standouts in this film, but the entire ensemble cast deserve special praise by helping to create the sense of collaboration in the efforts to track down Bin Laden.
Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal have nailed the tense scenery of the behind-the-scenes military and agency operation film, brilliantly helped along by cinematographer’s Greig Fraser’s raw visual style. The film looks like a high-end re-enactment of events, compared to other traditional Hollywood films with similar themes and settings. The sets and locations all feel authentic, adding to the sense of realism. The raw intensity of the film is a testament to Bigelow’s style, but while her last film, The Hurt Locker may have been more suspenseful overall, Zero Dark Thirty does not fall far behind in creating a tension filled environment.
Zero Dark Thirty is a raw and powerful look into the efforts involved in procuring information that would eventually lead to the capture of the world’s most infamous terrorist. The film appears to genuinely recreate the emotion and intensity of the characters and events that would have preceded the years leading up to Bin Laden’s discovery. It is a class-above level of filmmaking that leaves you with a completely satisfying viewing experience, one to remember long after the credits roll.
The movie was originally about the unsuccessful decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden. The screenplay was completely re-written after bin Laden was killed.