After becoming the first Woman to receive the accolade of Best Director at the Oscars for her 2009 picture, The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow turned her attention to the decade long hunt for Osama Bin Laden in her next feature film and, once again, her take on a real life conflict garnered a positive reception at this years Oscars ceremony, with Zero Dark Thirty receiving five nominations that culminated in an award for Sound Editing. Not quite as impressive as The Hurt Locker’s well deserved six Oscars, but nonetheless a clear sign that Bigelow remains an important presence in today’s film industry.
Many readers will be aware that Bigelow’s script had to undergo some dramatic changes when real life events took a drastic but positive turn which resulted in the eventual capture of Bin Laden. The original script documented the search for Osama Bin Laden and the frustration of those tasked with locating the terrorist when their hunt proved fruitless. Following Bin Laden’s real life capture the ending was rewritten to feature the intense final moments of his life which resulted in one of the film’s most exhilarating sequences and a less depressing resolution to the screenplay.
Whilst it fails to reach the intensity of The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty is still packed with scenes that will leave your heart pounding, and tackles the subject matter in a documentary style not too dissimilar from the work of Paul Greengrass in United 93 or Bloody Sunday. There are no Hollywood moments here as the characters encounter numerous struggles throughout the most infamous manhunt in recent history, and the losses continue to weigh in Bin Laden’s favour, despite the relentless interrogation of his captured allies at the hands of the USA.
Jessica Chastain portrays a harried but driven protagonist; she is thrust straight into the violent world of torturing detainees and Bigelow pulls no punches in highlighting the extreme lengths reached by those determined to extract vital information from their captives, and although her character Maya is initially a reluctant participant, she soon realises this could be the only method to provide her with the intelligence she needs to capture the fugitive terrorist. Fresh from his appearance as the older brother in Lawless, Jason Clarke is the man responsible for introducing Maya in to the dark world of interrogation and, along with actors such as Mark Strong and Joel Edgerton, the excellent supporting cast provides Chastain with the opportunity to shine thanks to their competent and convincing performances which restrain from dominating the proceedings.
Zero Dark Thirty packs a powerful punch even if at times the story does feel slightly hollow, which is mainly due to the documentary style approach that has a tendency to distance audiences from the character’s emotions, and certain scenes will undoubtedly leave viewers shellshocked and stunned. There are instances when the runtime of close to three hours does seem overly long but this also emphasizes the apparent futility of Maya’s search and her stern dedication to fighting for what she believes in.
As a record of the hunt for the world’s most wanted man Zero Dark Thirty remains a compelling and relevant feature film although the graphic scenes of torture may prove too much for the more squeamish viewers. Difficult to recommend but captivating from start to finish, it is understandable why Zero Dark Thirty polarises viewers. The all too real focus on recent events may be too much for some to stomach and those expecting numerous adrenalin packed action sequences may be slightly disappointed, however, as a study of obsession and determination in the face of great adversity, Bigelow’s latest is an accomplished triumph that demands your attention.
*** 1/2 Stars
DVD/BD Release Date: 10th June 2013 (UK)
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke,
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