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March 4, 2013 | by  | in Film | [ssba]

Film Review – Zero Dark Thirty

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

9/11 has shaped the world in ways that many filmmakers have yet to come to terms with. Films like United 93 aside, many engage in simplistic platitudes that fail to illuminate the realities of a post 9/11 world. In contrast, Zero Dark Thirty is a thrilling, complex piece of entertainment that does not resort to easy generalisations.
Largely based on actual events, Zero Dark Thirty traces a CIA operative’s obsessive hunt for Osama Bin Laden in the aftermath of 9/11. However the film is more than a mere procedural: it adeptly condenses a haphazard set of events into a coherent narrative about America’s response to Islamic extremism. Bigelow’s statement is exceedingly effective because she shies away from patriotic bravado. Her camera renders events in an honest, critical manner, showing morally questionable techniques such as torture in harrowing detail. The films conclusions are not clear-cut, and Bigelow trusts her audience to make their own judgements rather than be spoon-fed the answers.
From a craft perspective, Zero Dark Thirty is a triumph of thrills and suspense. The final scene, in particular, is a master class in taut filmmaking and highlights Bigelow’s grip on her material. Tense without being overblown, it expertly pays off the film’s narrative promise.
Complementing Bigelow’s consummate direction is the fantastically nuanced performance of Jessica Chastain. She exhibits a remarkably restrained style of acting that relies on a mastery of vocal inflections and body language, and which gives us a sense of someone who is somewhat petulant, but by the same token also unwavering in her pursuit.
That being said, Zero Dark Thirty does suffer from some flaws. Bigelow makes little effort to ground her characters, and the movie’s opening is compelling but impenetrable from a narrative standpoint. However, to focus on these imperfections obscures the intense power of the picture that Bigelow has created. Both gripping and nuanced, Zero Dark Thirty is one of the most impressive films of 2013 thus far.



Review by Gerald Lee


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