Movies that tend to be procedural style thrillers can bore me on occasion (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) but sometimes they can really get me hooked and on the edge of my seat (Munich, Argo). Zero Dark Thirty is the new film by director Kathryn Bigelow whose last film, The Hurt Locker, won much critical acclaim, but I found myself wanting more from it. The performances were great, especially in the case of Jeremy Renner, but I found it didn’t fully capture my imagination. Zero Dark Thirty is enjoying the same level of acclaim, but did it have the same effect on me as The Hurt Locker?
Maya (Jessica Chastain) is a CIA operative recruited straight out of high school. Her first assignment is observing the interrogations of prisoners thought to be involved with the Al Qaeda attacks on September 11, 2001. For many years after, Maya concentrates all of her efforts and talents into tracking the most wanted man in the world, Osama Bin Laden. In 2011, her work pays off when intelligence and years of work leads her to believe she has found the terrorists current location and a U.S. Navy SEAL team is sent in to kill or capture Bin Laden.
Zero Dark Thirty has been controversial due to its depiction of U.S. interrogation techniques, but I found nothing new or overtly disturbing about the acts depicted in the film. The chronicle of Maya’s near obsession with capturing Bin Laden is well paced, honest and quite compelling. Chastain proves once again (not that she had to) that she is a powerful force in Hollywood delivering a thoughtful and realistic portrayal of a headstrong and determined woman who knows what she is doing and is damn good at it. The film is pretty heavy on the procedural stuff, which may lose some people, but it is so worth sticking with it. Once the final raid on Bin Laden’s location happens, you can’t help but be glued to the screen as it all goes down. And it makes wading through the years of information in the 2 hours before it all the more worth it and really ties everything together into one cohesive experience. By the time you get to the scene you really feel like you have been through the ringer with Chastain’s character. Filled with great supporting roles by the likes of Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, the amazing Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Ehle, and Harold Perrineau, this is a first class cast under first class direction.
The Blu-ray from Alliance is sharp, detailed, bold and true. The raid at the end of the film has some banding in the very dark scenes from time to time, but not enough to take away from the enjoyment of the film. Overall, Zero Dark Thirty is a fascinating and engrossing thriller with great performances and a top notch transfer.
Available March 19, 2013 on Blu-ray and DVD.