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Zero Dark Thirty - Film Review

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by James Newcombe (subscribe)
Freelance writer for feature articles, web content and blogs. Specializing in non-fiction articles on a range of subjects including lifestyle, travel, architecture and product reviews.
Published December 18th 2012
The greatest man-hunt in history
Navy Seals outside the compound in Abbottabad. Columbia Pictures.

This American action thriller directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Hurt Locker), chronicles the CIA's billion-dollar manhunt for Osama Bin Laden following the September 11 attacks in 2001. The movie is seen through the eyes of Maya (Jessica Chastain), a fresh faced, determined CIA officer recruited in the fight against terror and the capture of Bin Laden. Whilst the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks in England, India and the Middle East seemingly continue unabated, the hunt for Bin Laden intensifies. Despite setbacks including security threats, CIA bureaucracy and unsupportive superiors, Maya relentlessly pursues her goal, becoming the pivotal figure in the hunt for Bin Laden, despite her initial reservations about the treatment of suspects.

Jason Clarke
Jason Clarke plays a CIA Interrogator in the Middle East: "In the end everybody breaks. It's biology". Columbia Pictures.

As the movie progresses it becomes a detective story, played out across various locations around the world. Clues are given, information extracted, leads followed, sometimes leading up blind alleys, and sometimes with serious consequences. The movie gives an insight into the intelligence community and the methods used to gather information including brutal interrogations, electronic surveillance and old fashioned spying.

This film has not been without controversy. Allegations have been made that it was deliberately released to coincide with Barack Obama's re-election. Questions also about improper access to classified information, and criticism of the movie's 'pro-torture' stance. The torture scenes at the start of the movie are lengthy and may be difficult viewing for some, but are necessary to get the complete story.

Navy Seals enter the building
Navy Seals enter the compound. Columbia Pictures.

This documentary style, evenly paced thriller slowly builds to its climax, but at almost two hours and thirty minutes it is a little long. All the years of research, intelligence gathering, analysis, torture and shady deals finally culminate with the stealth attack on a suspect compound in Abbottabad where it is believed that Bin Laden is hiding out. The fact that only a 60% chance of it being Bin Laden was given by most CIA insiders makes you realise the enormous risk that was taken by President Obama in approving the raid.

Jessica Chastain (as Maya)
Jessica Chastain (as Maya) who's character is based on a real person. Columbia Pictures.

But the film is mainly about the people on the ground; the strength, courage, dedication and tenacity of the intelligence community in their long and arduous task of tracking down the world's most wanted man. Jessica Chastain gives a strong, honest lead performance ably backed up by interrogator Dan (Jason Clarke) and CIA Director George (Mark Strong). Those expecting Joel Edgerton to star in this movie will be disappointed. He plays Patrick, the Navy Seal squadron leader whose role is brief and toward the latter half of the film. Despite knowing the outcome of the movie, it is so expertly crafted and acted that it is an enjoyable and satisfying ride. 4/5 stars.

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*James Newcombe was invited as a guest
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Why? For an intense, suspenseful ride this summer
When: January 2013
Where: Coming to all good Cinemas.
Cost: Check your local Cinema
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