Zero Dark Thirty is a deep, intense mystery. Starting with minutia and building, the story of the 10-year search for the world's most hated, feared and famous terrorist Osama bin Laden wades through puzzles and riddles worthy of Sherlock Holmes. Toward the end of its 157 minutes, Zero Dark Thirty quietly morphs into a riveting action thriller.
Zero Dark Thirty follows a real-life investigator known in the film as Maya. Her dogged determination and unrelenting dedication, and in spite of resistance from her superiors, found bin Laden.
Director Kathryn Bigelow and her The Hurt Locker writer Mark Boal start their movie in a most unique way. Like Maya, you join the team and are thrown into the hunt. There are no explanations. No terminology definitions. Nothing to give you perspective. As the story progresses you get up to speed and have no trouble following the hunt.
Jessica Chastain (The Help) is tense, all-business Maya. Jaw jutted forward, and as determined as her character, Chastain plows through a brilliant, often uncomfortable script. It co-stars Jennifer Ehle, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler and James Gandolfini. Looking a lot like Leon Panetta, Gandolfini is billed only as CIA director. Also noteworthy are performances from actors with no lines to just a few. They are the cement that glue the story together.
Zero Dark Thirty is dark. You will find it uncomfortable in many, many places. The story slowly weaves through the dark alleys and dead ends of the search. Some of the film is fictionalized and the filmmakers are guessing. Most of it is probably how things came down. From the search it flows into politics and the frustrating wait to see if bin Laden is where Maya thinks he is located. Then Zero Dark Thirty moves into high gear with the actual operation that killed him.
Ignore the complaints from members of Congress that the movie embraces and condones torture. It does not. The story must've hit too close to the truth. Bigelow and Boal are being pressured about where they got their information for the movie.
Does it really matter?
Don't miss this one. Zero Dark Thirty is one of 2012's best.
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Stars: Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Ehle, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler, James Gandolfini
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated R for extreme violence, language, mature themes. It is playing at Regal's Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.