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What's striking is the absence of triumphalism -- Bigelow doesn't shy away from showing the victims shot down in cold blood in the compound -- and we come away with the overwhelming sense that this has been a grim, dark episode in our history.
Chastain makes Maya as vivid as a bloodshot eye. Her porcelain skin, delicate features and feminine attire belie the steel within.
No doubt Zero Dark Thirty serves a function by airing America's dirty laundry about detainee and torture programs, but in its wake, there's a crying need for a compassionate Coming Home to counter its brutal Deer Hunter.
While "Zero Dark Thirty" may offer political and moral arguing points aplenty, as well as vicarious thrills,as a film it's simply too much of a passable thing.
From the very first scenes of Zero Dark Thirty, director Kathryn Bigelow demonstrates why she is such a formidable filmmaker, as adept with human emotion as with visceral, pulse-quickening action.
A timely and important reminder of the agonizing human price of zealotry.
Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal shape history -- those breaks, big and small, that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden -- into one of the finest fact-based thrillers since "All the President's Men."
Purely as cinematic exercise, Zero Dark Thirty is an exhilarating piece of work. But, beyond its for-the-times subject matter, the work does not linger whatsoever.
Zero Dark Thirty is interesting as opposed to enjoyable, intriguing as opposed to entertaining, and certainly less memorable than The Hurt Locker.
It's quite remarkable how Bigelow and Boal managed to take 12 years of information (including a conclusion that everyone knows) and packaged it into a coherent, intimate and intense movie.
We know the ending, yet remain mesmerized by familiar details, filmed with a harrowing sense of urgency. It's as close to being in the White House situation room that night, watching a closed-circuit broadcast, as anyone could expect.
The second half of the film IS the film.
Whereas Locker was less about war than what it is to have a death wish, ZDT is less about the suspenseful true-life search for Osama bin Laden than the red tape one woman must wade through to prove that a mean old bastard is living in suburban Pakistan.
Bigelow's great achievement is stripping down the action from the exaggerated theatrics in movies and television shows so the missions feel no less exciting and immediate.
One of the finest movies of the year is a thriller about the tracking and, finally, slaying of Osama bin Laden.
There is no Team America-style, flag-waving bravado behind this story - it is quite the opposite.
Bigelow has created the best film of 2012.
"Zero Dark Thirty" is less a celebration how terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden was found and killed than an engrossing examination of why it took a decade to deal with him.
Following on from the great acclaim of The Hurt Locker, Bigalow's shaky cam and tough talking characters once again take us to the dark side of modern warfare.
In the absence of cinematic grandeur and didacticism, we're left as empty and as lost as Chastain's agent as she boards a symbolically empty plane for an uncertain future. Just what are we to think of the so-called War on Terror?
The viewer needs to stay sharp to stay on top of the details of the labyrinthine search, but Bigelow tackles the complex story with the same muscular urgency and incisive intelligence that won her an Oscar for The Hurt Locker.
Exhilarating cinema that makes you want to forget all the questionable issues of representation that have come before it.
This is a fascinating film, and Chastain's wonderful performance has something in it of the tragic sense of life.