“Zero Dark Thirty (2012)” Review

Bin Laden is there. And you’re going to kill him for me.

Why did I watch it?

After Interstellar and The Martian and, more recently, Molly’s Game I was looking at which other films Jessica Chastain had starred in. This stood out: it’s directed by Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Homicide: Life on the Street).

Did it meet expectations?

This is the 10 year hunt for Bin Laden, focused on a single-minded CIA agent.  It’s uncomfortable viewings, opening with recordings from 9/11. When the caption 7th July 2005 comes up over shots of London, you flinch knowing what comes next.

There are graphic torture sequences that Bigelow deals with unsentimentally. The CIA operatives aren’t given dialogue purely for the purpose of exploring this moral abyss, but their action and reaction gives some indication of the effect it has on them. Action sequences are fast-moving but Bigelow goes for immediacy over thrills. Women and children are terrified or shot by American soldiers. After viewing what is done in the name of keeping us safe sleeping sound in our beds, we are unlikely to sleep soundly in our beds.

Jennifer Ehle, who so impressed me (again) in Contagion has a major role being American and is, again, great. She’s not the only refugee from 90s British television; Mark Strong is here too. Chastain is excellent. I’m still really taken with just how good she is.

You should watch it if…

  • You like your political action thrillers with a hard-edge
  • You appreciate spy-jargon and good dialogue

You shouldn’t watch it if…

  • You don’t want to be (further) depressed by the violence and terror in the world

Up next: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2018)

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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