Kathryn Bigelow, director 2008’s Oscar-winning drama “The Hurt Locker,” has returned to the genre of military realism in her new film “Zero Dark Thirty.”
The film follows CIA officer Maya on an eight year manhunt for the world’s most dangerous terrorist, Osama bin Laden. Instead of focusing on front line action like she has before, Bigelow shows her audience the work that happens behind the scenes.
Although the bulk of the film is spent in offices, it remains as riveting and intense as if the focus was on soldiers in the battlefield.
Bigelow succeeds in creating an aura of gritty realism throughout the film. This is due in part to Mark Boal’s excellent screenplay and the superb acting of Jessica Chastain, who plays the film’s leading character.
Early in the movie, we are shown American soldiers torturing a detainee in Pakistan. Bigelow holds no punches in these scenes, which has caused a fair share of controversy. The audience is shown the results and political ramifications of these actions. Although audiences are sure to be split over deciding whether or not the filmmakers are in support of torture, there is no denying the impact these scenes will have.
The cinematography is excellent, especially during the last half hour of the film, which shows the raid on the compound where bin Laden was hiding. The audience is thrown in the middle of the action, and the intensity doesn’t let up.
One aspect that stood out was the sound editing. Every gunshot and explosion delivers a guttural punch. Whenever action happens, the auditorium is filled with the sounds of war.
The pacing of the film will be tiresome for some. Between scenes of violence and life threatening situations are dialogue heavy meetings and close-ups of the actors conveying strong emotions. The 157 minute running time can test the patience of even the more experienced film buff. Those who are willing to stick through are sure to be impressed with the skillful filmmaking, while others will be lost after the first hour.
When the credits began to roll, the audience was mostly silent as they exited the theater. You can’t help but get lost in your thoughts after watching the film. Some will have an internal debate over the ethics of torture, and some will question the legitimacy of what they just saw. Regardless, “Zero Dark Thirty” is an achievement in dramatic filmmaking.