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Zero Dark Thirty | The Clapper Bored

Zero Dark Thirty

I really enjoyed The Hurt Locker and was certainly a member of its team at the Oscars where it clashed with Avatar. It had a sophistication that I don’t usually associate with action movies (and we all know how much I hate explosions). So, I was excited about Zero Dark Thirty, especially after all the awards buzz and the delicious trailers that held their cards close to the chest and screamed ‘WHERE IS BIN LADEN?’ at the audience. And, after two and a half hours at the cinema, it’s fair to say that I wasn’t at all disappointed. Bigelow has crafted a sensitive, ambiguous and, crucially, very adult picture that is so anti-partisan that it’s managed to offend almost everyone.

The film tracks Jessica Chastain’s Maya as she makes her way through the ranks of the CIA, dedicated to one pursuit: finding Osama bin Laden. Chastain is wonderful, every bit as hauntingly beautiful as in The Tree of Life but now with a steely determination. Of all the awards contender performances in 2012, this is the least showy- think Gary Oldman in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy for reference. Around her a cast of supporting characters (uniformly excellent, especially the Pakistani and Afghan cast) revolve like orbiting planets. Mark Strong comes in and does his thing, James Gandolfini comes in and does his thing, hell, even John Barrowman comes in and does his thing, but the focus is very much on Maya.

Where Zero Dark Thirty really shines though, is its tone. In a cinematic world where even grown ups are made to feel like infants, it’s incredibly refreshing to see a film that assumes that you’re smart enough to keep up with it. There’s very little pointless exposition or mugging for the camera. Instead Mark Boal has created a script where characters get on and do their job, and the audience has to try and keep up with that. Despite accusations of a pro-torture stance and (confusingly) a gung ho Obamafest ending, this film is really neither. Torture happens and works, does that surprise anyone? The ending happens under the Obama regime, does that surprise anyone? What the film manages to do is be controversial through its refreshingly honest vision of one of America’s greatest ever manhunts.

Chastain is superb and the film is an unpatronising delight. The best two and a half hours you’ll ever spend tracking Osama bin Laden.

Title: Zero Dark Thirty
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Jason Clarke, James Gandolfini, Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Ehle
Running Time : 2 1/2 hours
Certificate: 15

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