Zero Dark Thirty

Tom Parry,

On the 2nd of May 2011 Osama Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan. After a 10 year search for the leader of Al Qaeda, this single operation marked the end of a hunt that many, including myself, believed would never be successful.

As proven by The Hurtlocker, Kathryn Bigelow is the film maker of recent times most capable of tackling such an event and as her 2009 Oscar winning Iraq war drama showed, she has a unique way of bringing the War on Terror to the screen.

Zero Dark Thirty is a thriller drawn from the very heart of the CIA. Through numerous interviews with several high ranking Langley officials, Bigelow (and Hurtlocker writing partner Mark Boal) are able to give us a highly compelling drama.

The pair succeed in telling a story ripped from headlines the world over and are able to offer an insight into an event that had already been widely covered. They were also able to make the events of the film as cinematic as possible while still giving it accuracy and authenticity.

The film charts CIA operative, Maya (Jessica Chastain) and her search for the world’s most wanted man beginning on 9/11 right through to the decisive raid in Abbottabad.

In Chastain the film sports a hugely gripping performance. Her ark from fresh faced recruit watching her first interrogation to eventually heading up the raid into Bin Laden’s compound is brilliant portrayed.

Cold, driven and haunted are words to best sum up Chastain’s under stated performance and though she does not receive any big emotional speeches (the type Oscar voters love), in fact she hardly shows any emotion at all, regardless of this, she is still a fascinating character.

Maya may lack outward feeling but Chastain is able to show how the unrelenting nature of her work and the pressure placed on her to deliver results has driven her to focus solely on her mission, dismissing a normal life.

This is evident when asked by CIA Chief James Gandolfini “What else have you done for us besides bin Laden?”

“Nothing, I’ve done nothing else”, she answers. Maya’s entire career has centred on the name Bin Laden and it seems she can only rest when he is found. Her job feels, at times to be almost like a crusade. Perhaps she could even be considered as fanatical as the fanatics she hunts.

In many ways she compares to Bigelow’s past creation Jeremy Renner’s bomb disposal expert Sergeant James. Both characters obsessed with their field of work but fields that have no clear boundaries and in which the game is always changing.

Chastain is supported strongly by Mark strong and Jason Clarke as her CIA colleagues who have to deal with her no nonsense, determined methods.

The film’s third act is expertly crafted, re-creating the actions of the now famous Seal Team Six, it’s almost as if you’re watching documentary footage and although you know the outcome it’s still very exciting.

This tense finale coupled with Chastain’s solitary tears after the job is completed make for a powerful ending but Bigelow leaves it in ambiguity. America may have finally got their man, but like Maya where do they go from here?


  1. I loved this film and really felt it uncovered details to the Bin Laden story I was previously unaware of.

    In particular, I loved the ‘documentary-like’ format of the final section of the film that you alluded to.

    Nice Review

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