It's two years after the September 11th attacks and Maya (Jessica Chastain), a young CIA operative had just moved to a CIA black site in the Middle East to join the interrogation team. Sceptical towards the aggressive methods that her college Jake (Jason Clarke) uses, she sees the advantages of such methods. She begins to become obsessed with the case of finding Bin Laden and believes their best lead is in finding Abu Amed. The mission takes over her life as she constantly is rejected by her superiors, George (Mark Strong) and Joseph (Kyle Chandler) for focusing on old theories and a lack of evidence. But she perseveres This is not a story where you want to know what happens - you already know the ending - this is learning how it happened.
|American propaganda? Naaaahhhh.|
Chastain’s performance is, obviously, the central point of the whole film. There is no doubt that she is a strong actress. She is brave, bold, and powerful. As Maya, she shows how authoritative a successful secret service operative needs to be, regardless of gender. She really captures Maya’s intelligence and dedication, painting her, very commonly, as a bit of a badass; rebelling against authority, forcing her superiors to bend to her will, and focusing on one man for eight years. Sometimes Chastain comes across as suddenly over-emotional, though. There are points that seem too much like they are ‘I need to shout to be a good actress’ moments. Some of these sections, it can be assumed, are down to the direction, rather than the acting. The supporting cast are also fantastic. There is something jarring about the most likeable character in the film also being the most brutal interrogator but, at the same time, it is a testament to Jason Clark‘s performance that he managed to make that paradox a reality. It is one of the most engaging aspects of the film.
|Is there an American flag in every shot?|
Kathryn Bigelow’s direction is sturdy and solid. She does not hold back – in a very similar way to The Hurt Locker – but, very intelligently, does not present an opinion in her work. She creates a debate. There is no doubt that Zero Dark Thirty is a piece of pro-America cinema, but the more controversial matters – the representation of torture and Islam – are left for the audience to decide how they feel. For example, torture is shown but not in a negative or positive light. It is unnervingly neutral and this seems to be where the largest issue is caused. People want condemnation of torture and xenophobia, and anything less than that is considered praise. Bigelow is a master of avoiding opinion but opening discussion. With excellent camera work, the film’s only real technical flaw is its length. It starts dragging on unlike some of the other nominations of a similar length (see Lincoln) but this can be looked past as the film is of a strong enough quality to encourage the audience to persevere.
A heavily researched piece of film which tells the story behind one of the most well-known events of recent years. No doubt you will learn something – though do not trust all you see – and you will be entertained. Good for fans of The Hurt Locker as Bigelow seems to have found her stride in politically encouraged war films.
Best Bit? Naturally, the Navy Seal operation was long waited for throughout the film and tense throughout.