ZERO DARK THIRTY (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012)
In theaters now
In 2009, director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal teamed up on the harrowing Iraq war thriller The Hurt Locker, which won six Oscars, including Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture. They have now followed that up with another outstanding collaboration, the gripping military procedural Zero Dark Thirty, which very well could capture a slew of Academy Awards itself. Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life, The Help) stars as Maya, a CIA operative involved in the massive hunt for Osama bin Laden after the events of September 11, 2001. Working with Dan (Jason Clarke), a master of “enhanced interrogation techniques” — what many consider torture — Maya compiles critical information that eventually appears to hit a dead end, but her obsession and dedication will not allow her to stop pursuing a lead that everyone else, including her station chief, Joseph Bradley (Kyle Chandler), thinks is questionable at best. Bigelow (Blue Steel, Point Break) and cinematographer Greig Fraser (Bright Star, Let Me In) place audiences fight in the middle of the action as Maya and Red Squadron hone in on their target, evoking intense fear and anxiety — even when certain outcomes are known in advance. Chastain plays Maya with a level of vulnerability that prevents her from becoming a clichéd agent on a personal mission, while Clarke gives torture expert Dan surprising depth as well. “Can I be honest with you?” he says to a detainee. “I am bad news. I’m not your friend. I’m not gonna help you. I’m gonna break you.” Composer Alexandre Desplat contributes a dramatic score that elegantly rises and falls with the proceedings, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. Zero Dark Thirty is another awesome achievement by Bigelow and Boal, a terrifying examination of what went on behind the scenes as the U.S. government hunted down Osama bin Laden.