z e r o  d a r k  t h i r t y

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25th January 2013

Kathryn Bigelow

Jessica Chastain

157 minutes

15

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Released

Director

Starring

Runtime

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Reviewer

Kathryn Bigelow steps out of one conflict into another with an impressively lean thriller fictionally documenting the search for the very non-fictional Osama bin Laden.

There's a lot to admire in this film as there is in all of Bigelow's work. It moves at a breakneck pace despite its 157-minute running time and long periods of non-action. The main area of controversy is perhaps diluted on this side of the pond where waterboarding has largely been viewed as an American method. The unflinching filming of the methods used to interrogate prisoners is hard to watch but the results are by no means presented as cut-and-dried.

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Chastain's portrayal of an agent who not only wants to find UBL but has to find him in order for her existence to have some meaning is impressive. In a system full of lame leading female roles, she certainly doesn't waste the opportunity to show a character who both suffers for her work and effortlessly fits in with the overwhelmingly male world of international intelligence. Her empty stare at the end of the film seems to encapsulate so much of the struggle. Maya will always be employed finding these people precisely because finding them makes less difference to the big picture than it does to giving her a meaning for her life. 

Bigelow directs how you would expect, kinetic camera work and brutal sound effects throw you into the heart of the battles, both verbal and physical.

Some of the dialogue clunks to Point Break levels - 'I'm the motherfucker who found this place' is the verbal equivalent of taking your face and smashing it against the screen, puncturing the carefully created tension by being so out of place and out of character.

If you can step away from the furor of the torture and the issues surrounding the source material, the film deserves to be seen on its own merits.