Thursday Night Movie Club
Zero Dark Thirty
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Release Date: 11 January 2013

Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Jessica Chastain
Jason Clarke
Reda Kateb
Kyle Chandler
Jennifer Ehle
Harold Perrineau
Jeremy Strong
J.J. Kandel
Lauren Shaw
Fredric Lehne
James Gandolfini
Stephen Dillane
John Schwab
Martin Delaney
Jeff Mash
Joel Edgerton
Joseph Bradley
The Wolf
C.I.A. Director
National Security Advisor
Deputy National Security Advisor
Assistant to National Security Advisor
Deputy Director of C.I.A.
Patrick - Squadron Team Leader
Zero Dark Thirty movie poster 1 Zero Dark Thirty movie poster 2 Zero Dark Thirty movie poster 3
Jessica Chastain as Maya in Zero Dark ThirtyDirector Kathryn Bigelow scores another triumph. Zero Dark Thirty recounts the story of the C.I.A. hunt for Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the attack on the twin towers on 9/11/2001.

By all accounts, Zero Dark Thirty should be an extremely boring film but Bigelow has crafted a riveting film from the first frame to the last frame. The main difficulty in this type of film is that everyone knows the ending. The actors, many of whom have small parts, are all excellent. Without really knowing any of the characters names, the film's development is such that there is excitement and suspense throughout.

C.I.A. agent, known only as Maya (Jessica Chastain), arrives in Pakistan to take part in the "interrogation" of detainees in the hopes of discovering the whereabouts of Bin Laden. The openning scene is a long stretch where Maya and Dan (Jason Clarke) use every means at their disposal to break a detainee. Maya looks on expressing the horror of the situation. The scenes are difficult to watch. It must have been much worse for the actual detainees. Maya knows the clock is ticking. She has a job to do. Results are all that matters.

Kyle Chandler as Joseph Bradley in Zero Dark ThirtyLeads are few and far in between for Maya's liking. The hunt begins taking shape with the discovery of a mysterious courier. The mere fact that this courier is a relative ghost raises Maya's suspicions. This courier must be someone of great importance to remain so secretive. Identifying this man becomes Maya's sole purpose.

However, while the C.I.A. is investigating every lead, the rest of the world continues on. There are still terrorist attacks taking place throughout the world. New York has a car explode. Bombings take place in London and in Pakistan. Even Maya is attacked at her guarded complex in Pakistan. The world is not a safe place to be. The higher-ups in the C.I.A., including Maya's boss Joseph Bradley (Kyle Chandler), are ratcheting up the pressure. Maya is told to stop looking for this ghost. Maya is frustrated by her lack of progress and the fact that she is the only person who thinks the courier is a good lead to follow.

Maya's investigation takes a major turn. Without much evidence, Maya believes the ghost courier, who was reportedly killed in 2001, is still alive and operating. Her suspicion eventually leads directly to Osama Bin Laden.

James Gandolfini as C.I.A. DirectorZero Dark Thirty is Jessica Chastain's movie. Chastain carries the film. She is in virtually every scene. Chastain brings a full range of emotions: Horror at how the detainees are treated; Rational when she realizes the importance of collecting any information; Frustration at not getting results; Anger when no one supports her; Dogged pursuit when she knows she is right. Chastain captures all of the subtleties of Maya. At the end, Maya is almost comatose after years of intense work. She is provided with a private flight. The pilot doesn't have a flight plan so he asks Maya where she wants to go. Maya just stares blankly. This simple choice is too overwhelming for her.

The remainder of the cast, lead by Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler and James Gandofini, as the C.I.A. director, are all very good. Most of the supporting cast do not have much screen time, but each character is extremely important to the mission and the film. The hunt for Osama Bin Laden was a huge undertaking involving a vast array of investigators, statisticians, and technical personel.

The SEAL team carries out the attack on the compound in Zero Dark ThirtyDirector Bigelow uses a variety of techniques to tell this story. She uses long shots, closeups, quick editing, long takes, the occassional surprise explosion and intercuts her film with many news broadcasts. Zero Dark Thirty is a long film, told patiently, but focusing on the main turning points in the process that took ten years to bring to fruition.

During the final attack on Bin Laden's compound, a pin drop in the theater would sound like a bomb. The sequence is stunning. There is edge-of-your-seat suspense. Remember to keep breathing during this sequence. The scene is told from an overview, point-of-view shots through the SEAL team's night-vision goggles and satellite video shown on the screnes of the C.I.A. Operation Center. The sound effects of the stealth attack helicopters is amazing. The rotors of the copter were specially designed to dampen the sound.

Maya and a member of the SEAL teamZero Dark Thirty is a roller-coaster thrill ride. The film is riveting to watch even though the outcome is inevitable. This is a fascinating cat-and-mouse chase.

Many scenes are heart-stopping suspense filled with surprises. A meeting with a supposed informant turns deadly. The interrogation scenes are tough to watch. The best scene, other than the final attack, is the scene where C.I.A. operatives track a cell phone signal in the hopes of identifying the ghost courier. Once he is identified, a whole network of local Pakistanis is set up to track and record every movement of the S.U.V.

Zero Dark Thirty is a fantastic movie! Enjoy the ride!