Zero Dark Thirty is the story of how the CIA found Osama Bin Laden, and yes it is one of the better films made in 2012. The film follows a young CIA analyst named Maya, portrayed with fierce determination by Jessica Chastain. Maya is the only analyst who chases a lead that most of her superiors feel will go nowhere, and it's her unwillingness to give up on that lead and not succumbing to her human emotions that allows her to uncover Bin Laden's hideout.
How much of this film is true, we'll probably never know unless the government declassifies it someday, but as a film it works as a powerful, taut thriller and a modern history lesson. The film opens by smartly never showing any footage of 9/11, but just leaves the screen black for nearly two minutes, just playing overlapping phone calls and news reports from that horrific day. In this day and age of whiz-bang moviemaking, that took guts on behalf of director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal. Then, there is the Seal Team 6 night raid on Bin Laden's compound. Bigelow makes it tense and eerie through the night vision point-of-view shots, but most importantly, it feels real, as the events play out in real-time and nothing is ever overdramatized for Hollywood. However, even though Seal Team 6 performed the job, it was Maya and her intelligence that led to that moment.
We are never given much backstory on Maya, all we know is that Maya is young, has only been in the CIA for 12 years, having been recruited straight out of high school, and that she is darn good at what she does. She does not have time for friends or relationships and for the past 10 years, Bin Laden was her life. She is dedicated. Even though she is affected by seeing a man tortured, she maintains a fiery exterior to get to the information she needs. Possibly the best moment for Chastain as Maya comes when she is sitting in the plane after Bin Laden has been killed, she's asked where she wants to go and she does not answer, just succumbing to tears. Her emotions finally take her over. At this moment, there is this look that Chastain has, of a person who does not truly know who they are and where to call home. It's the most powerful moment of the film, and easily a scene that will linger in many Oscar voter's memories.
I give Zero Dark Thirty an A+