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Zero Dark Thirty movie poster

Zero Dark Thirty: Movie Review

Genre: Action, Drama, History, War
Rated: R
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Ehle, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, James Gandolfini, Harold Perrineau
Released by: Columbia Pictures

Running time: 157 minutes
Year: 2012

In Short: This often brutal, always compelling and fascinating film is a must-see for anyone who wants to know the inside story of America's hunt for Osama bin Laden in the decade following the 9/11 tragedy.

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Taking Down Osama bin Laden, One Step at a Time

It seems that Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal are really suited for going to war. The duo has already proven that with "The Hurt Locker," the 2010 Best Picture Academy Award winner about American military bomb-squad specialists working in Iraq during that awful war. That year Bigelow took the Best Director prize, Boal took Best Writing and Original Screenplay, and the movie won a total of six Oscars.

So it's no surprise that they are back in the trenches again with "Zero Dark Thirty." But this time the trenches are mostly in offices in Pakistan and Washington, D.C., as their taut tale of the CIA's search for the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden plays out to the final deadly ending, which comes as no surprise to anyone.

But the journey we take with the filmmakers is so intense, compelling and fascinating that knowing the outcome really doesn't matter a bit. The story begins just after 9/11, with the brutal torture of an al-Qaeda suspect by American CIA agents, including the female agent known simply as "Maya." As played by Jessica Chastain, this is a relentless woman, a person who is determined to find the man responsible for that devastating terrorist attack on America. She's based on a real person whose name remains classified (as she is still working for the CIA), but her actions in the long decade it took to bring bin Laden down speak loudly.

Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty A still from Zero Dark Thirty

The first three quarters of "Zero Dark Thirty" explore all the ways that Maya and the other agents used to track the terrorist, as the film moves seamlessly from office to office, out into the midst of the armed conflict in Iraq and into the often deadly streets of Islamabad, Pakistan and beyond. The final quarter is devoted to the actual Navy S.E.A.L. raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad that began at 12:30 a.m. — in military lingo, the "Zero Dark Thirty" referenced in the title. In an extended sequence that will keep you on the very edge of your seat with your heart in your throat, Bigelow takes us on an incredible journey. It's an amazing feat, considering that we all know exactly how it turned out.

"Zero Dark Thirty" is a tale that will resonate in your mind long after the screen goes dark.


Reviewed by Jenny Peters



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