Fiction or not, Bigelow's supposed docu-thriller about the work that led to Bin Laden's final seconds is a cinematic gem. An extraordinary film that, by my surprise, it doesn't try to teach, impose, nor propose anything to the audience. It doesn't try to glorify any act in the film, including the main stage, the killing of the once "most wanted man on the planet". Bringing your own thoughts and beliefs about what really happened behind the curtains will not benefit your experience at all. You'll have to just trust your film-loving instincts on this one.
Unlike most titles, Zero Dark Thirty works only on two acts. It jumps over the intrigue because that's already in the title, the synopsis, and the trailers. It dives straight into this thrilling and captivating chase leaving no room for proper character development. A narrative trait that it's not needed here since this is not a story about "who" but about "how". The first act runs for almost two entire hours and it runs as fast as a bullet. It's so focused on showing a detailed progress of this bear hunt that lasted for 10 years. It's far from being a propaganda exactly because it doesn't place anything on a pedestal. Everything is treated through the eyes of the camera lens and doesn't force the plot down the audience throat with cheap mindtricks. It's clever, it's sensational, it's professional, but not obscene. Once you get through the two hours of continuous search and chilly foretastes of intelligence tradecraft, you finally get to the big thing.
The checks are ready to be signed and holy f*ck if this Boal/Bigelow team did not had balls with this one. I'm just gonna call them the Breaking Bad team of Hollywood because that's what they're actually doing. They're breaking rules, they're breaking the silence, they're smashing windows, they're relentless against any potential critique. And what they did with the last act, how they staged it, how they dealt with that amount of intensity and suspense is mind-boggling. The last 30 minutes are simply astonishing and so powerful you can't breathe. The experience is like nothing I've had in years in the theater and this is why cinema is my one love. Such a directorial achievement here it's a complete disgrace how the Academy did not nominate her.
A huge contribution to the film are also the performances. The very first half an hour is basically held in chains by the talented Jason Clarke who plays this CIA officer who's also a tortionist. He plays with the role in such ways that it avoids the cliches of being a typical government threatening guy. He's above that, he's calmer and more personal with his words. He gets more invested in his relationship with his subjects but never loses himself. After that, Jessica Chastain's analytical performance as Maya, another CIA field agent, is the ultimate catalyst and breaks those chains. I thought I would see a lot of Carrie Mathison (from Homeland) in her performance but, to my surprise again, I haven't. She's a reserved professional, she doesn't rely on exaggerated gestures, she's really quiet and self-questionable. Even when she gets a bit hysterical, it's not because of some illness or obsession, but it's a simple human "give me a break" situation because she's tired of rolling in a blanket of stress and nail-biting frustration each night, and also tired of being quiet about this whole dramatic experience. Strong performances overall by the whole cast no matter how small the roles are.
I would finish my review here but I cannot do it without mentioning Alexandre Desplat's beautiful work that should get far more recognition out there. Such a beautiful score, swinging from a distant emotion to a almost horrorish vibe. It also has this windy desert element in there which brings a scent of solitude in some scenes. I have yet to see The Master, but I have no doubts of this being in my top 2 films of the year. It's brilliantly crafted, perfectly acted, and an overall ferocious experience. This is quite a statement because initially, I was so annoyed at the prospect of this film being made. I had strong thoughts about this film being nothing more but an american narcissistic propaganda film. I'm glad that didn't happen.
Director Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” may be one of the most anticipated films of 2012 and one of the must-see films on my list. It started limited releases in select cities last 12/19/12 and will be hitting a nationwide release Jan. 11, 2013. I was fortunate to find a limited engagement in my city that began yesterday. After Bigelow’s award-winning film “The Hurt Locker”, expectations run high, and Bigelow has once again delivered with her dramatization … more