Saturday, 5 January 2013


Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty zips through its 2.5-hour-plus runtime with a brio and an enthusiasm for storytelling that is terrific to behold, yet also with diligence and meticulousness. As a procedural, for, as we are aware of the ending, it can only be that, it captures the breadth of the CIA's efforts (or of one woman's efforts, more specifically) to find Osama bin Laden, covering almost the entirety of the last decade. The route from its opening scenes to its closing ones is presented as long, and with many seemingly insurmountable obstacles along its winding way - the American characters tend to surmount them rather expediently, although sacrifices must be made to factual minutiae in condensing such a vast story into a feature film, and the film is successful anyway in its documenting and relation of these events. We are, at times, reminded of Bigelow's past as the director of sexy early-90s action films, yet the comparative sobriety she brings to Zero Dark Thirty, no doubt influenced by Mark Boal's screenplay, prodigious yet straightforward, is apt. The screenplay, indeed the events it covers, is what drives this film, although Bigelow's innate sense of space, and ever-developing sense of character are apparent in every frame, and her grip on Zero Dark Thirty's tone, and the progression of its climactic raid sequence, is sure. A wise decision to tell this film through the eyes of its protagonist throughout - here called Maya, and played by Jessica Chastain, a great chameleon as an actor, with an unforced emotional range that she knows both when and how to employ. As she sits, alone, on a plane to a life she neither knows nor wants, she sheds a tear. America may have had its victory, its somewhat nugatory victory, but Maya has been hollowed out, left without a purpose. Bigelow won't give the audience its fist-pump moment. We have come to know this resolute, inwards, unsociable woman, and understand her. For her, and for us, this is no happy ending.