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“Zero Dark Thirty” – Review (POSITIVE)

January 4, 2013

Screen shot 2013-01-04 at 12.57.24 AMIt’s sad that I didn’t see this movie before 2012 ended; otherwise it would’ve made my Lucky 13 list.

Kathryn Bigelow has crafted something quite ingenious here. Although most of the movie is embellished, a lot I may add, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that “Zero Dark Thirty” is a nail biter of a thriller. I found myself biting my nails, I never do that! Bigelow and her Oscar winning screenwriting partner, Mark Boal, reunite after their major Oscar win with “The Hurt Locker”, now the duo tackle a subject that some may have found to be too soon to discuss, the capture and death of Osama Bin Laden.

CIA agent Maya (Jessica Chastain) begins her career after 9/11, her first mission…tracking down the man responsible for the death of 3000 innocent lives on that fateful morning. Maya crusades for a decade, her bravery & determination, becomes an obsessive one at best. Hitting dead ends, left and right, bombings continuing through the years, she’s come no closer to finding Bin Laden. Suddenly, a possible trail resurfaces from the past, a suspect that was thought to be dead is in fact alive. Could this lead be the one who brings the CIA & Maya to the target they’ve been maddening over for the past ten years? Well, you all know the ending, but the journey getting from point A to point B is a pulse pounding one at best. The final twenty-five minutes of the movie are perhaps some of the most intense moments put onto film.

I really liked Maya, she’s not your everyday normal leading female protagonist. Jessica Chastain stated in an interview, “Historically in movies, lead female characters are defined by men: They are usually either a victim or a love interest. Maya is none of those things. She is capable and intelligent, and she stands on her own.” She’s right, we as viewers are not used to such a character like her, there have been very little of these kinds of characters out there, which made the film all the more refreshing to watch. In my opinion, I see the character of Maya play out as a modern day female version of Jack Ryan (created by Tom Clancy). She doesn’t show weakness in the film, because showing it will certainly get her killed, and she’s come very close, a few times, to her imminent demise.

Maya’s arc, her transition, was clear as day; going from a young, hungry, CIA analyst, self-absessive, to finally becoming a broken down human being. Her journey is our journey; you don’t need an in-depth back story on Maya, frankly we don’t know much about the real woman Chastain portrays, neither does she, but what the character offered was surly captivating. Maya’s past before this manhunt is irrelevant, it’s about how someone so innocent could become so harden with determination, and when all’s said and done, when it’s finally complete, the only thing left is rubble. What else does she have now? She’s lost friends over this manhuntl, she finally accomplished what she set out to do and what has it given her? There is no self gratification when killing a monster, the ending, the very last shot, shows us this.

The film takes some intense approaches in the overall scope. It makes use of it’s sound, much like how I discussed in my “Killing Them Softly” review, sound was a crucial element for the tension this movie was giving off. Alexandre Desplat composed the minimalistic score, and I say minimalistic because it’s used for a very specific reason. Silence is far more terrifying and often surreal, than a bunch of random gunshots, explosions, and epic John Williams-esq score. The silence played throughout the film, or even the quiet atmosphere causes the viewer to deepen and lower themselves into their seat. Trust me, I found myself doing this quite a few times. That’s what I love when going to see a movie, it gets to you in both a mental and physical level you’d never see coming.

Kathryn Bigelow is a damn fine director, she can pin point that camera exactly where it needs to be, find the right tempo/beat, and bring you a character you can find yourself behind every step of the way. She accomplished this in “The Hurt Locker”, and it made no difference here, if anything I think she improved on herself. Her style remains the same, but there’s something about her aesthetic that changes, subtly.


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