All News & Blogs
BY CARY DARLING
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Everyone knows how "Zero Dark Thirty" ends: with the killing of Osama bin Laden in his Pakistani compound by SEAL Team 6.
But it's how it begins-- with the hauntingly effective use of voices of the 9/11 victims and then a pummeling abuse of a prisoner at a clandestine CIA "black site" --that has inflamed the passions of both conservatives and liberals.
Yet, as a viewer, it's like being shoved down a dark tunnel into a shadowy world of intrigue, suspicion and horror. That world comes brutally alive in Kathryn Bigelow's new film, a harrowing adventure behind the headlines that is at once a riveting procedural and, at the same time, a bracing political statement on the moral ambiguities of our war on terror.
Jessica Chastain plays Maya, a CIA analyst who is single-mindedly on the trail of Osama bin Laden, even when her boss, Joseph Bradley (Kyle Chandler), wants her not to spend so much time on it.
Maya is introduced to the world of "enhanced interrogation" through another agent, Dan (Jason Clarke), who lets her watch while he assaults and humiliates Ammar (Reda Kateb). At first, she seems uncomfortable, as if she might put a stop to it, but ultimately it seems only to harden her heart and resolve.
But it's going to take a lot more than jailhouse savagery to get bin Laden. It's going to take gumshoe detective skills and that means everything else in Maya's life--which we're given few clues about--is pushed aside. (The person upon whom Maya is based is reportedly still an active CIA agent.)
She's helped along by Clarke, an Australian actor who may now zoom to star status after years of yeoman work in TV and film.
Then there's the planning and execution of the raid itself, the back half of the film, where you feel as if you're just one pair of night-vision-goggles away from the two SEAL Team members we get to know best, Patrick (Joel Edgerton) and Justin (Chris Pratt).
Yet, after the deed is done, it doesn't feel celebratory for Maya. She seems to realize the aftershock of war for her, and by extension all of us, will be around a long time.
As written by Mark Boaz and envisioned by Bigelow, "Zero Dark Thirty" is no simple, action-hero victory dance around bin Laden's body. It's a powerful, philosophically troubling look at recent events.
Simply put, "Zero Dark Thirty" is the best film of 2012.
ZERO DARK THIRTY
STARRING: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler
CREDITS: Director Kathryn Bigelow. Running time: 157 min.
RATED: R (strong violence including brutal disturbing images, and for strong language)
THEATERS: Fredericksburg 14, Aquia 10, Marquee Cinemas