Zero Dark Thirty ***½/4 – a movie review by James Berardinelli

January 31, 2013 by James Berardinelli - Reelviews
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Zero Dark Thirty is a compelling contemporary thriller with the added benefit of also being an engrossing character study.

Like Argo, it interweaves elements of the historical record with fictional embellishments and speculation to create a tapestry depicting the sometimes fatal front-line struggles of intelligence agency operatives. Unlike Argo, however, it provides a fascinating and powerfully portrayed central character. With all apologies to Ben Affleck, Jessica Chastain rivets the attention.

The story, culled as it has been from recent headlines, is not full of surprises or revelations. We all know it how it will end: with Osama bin Laden in a body bag. The fascination and suspense comes from seeing how the events leading to that moment are dramatized. Zero Dark Thirty opens on 9/11 (with the fall of the Twin Towers being depicted only in sound as the screen remains dark) and concludes on May 2, 2011. In between, it follows the efforts of a CIA agent, Maya (Jessica Chastain), to locate Osama bin Laden in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region and the mission, led by Navy SEAL Patrick (Joel Edgerton), to “take out” UBL.

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