Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal's unofficial sequel to their Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker dramatizes the decade-long CIA manhunt for Osama bin Laden, and from the major details to the smallest ones, the reporting is so good you scarcely question a beat. Jessica Chastain gives a sensational performances as Maya, a young CIA officer newly arrived in Pakistan, where her responsibilities include interrogating detained Al Qaeda suspects at secret agency prisons throughout Asia and the Middle East. Be forewarned: "Enhanced" measures such as waterboarding and starvation are depicted, and without any of the moral outrage some might expect from a Hollywood treatment of this subject. Rather, as they did in The Hurt Locker, Bigelow and Boal come not to judge but to show, leaving the rest up to us. This is superb journalism and even better filmmaking, culminating in an electrifying re-enactment of the May 1, 2011, raid on bin Laden’s Pakistan hideout. But what impresses most about Zero Dark Thirty is the long time it spends in the middle distance, immersing us in the workaday lives of agents and analysts who sacrifice much in the name of something bigger than themselves and struggle against the same petty bureaucrats one encounters in any company-- whether the boss is Uncle Sam or merely some guy named Sam.
Kathryn BigelowJessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Ehle, Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler, Edgar RamirezMark BoalMark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, Megan Ellison, Colin Wilson, Greg Shapiro, Ted SchipperColumbia Pictures