Review Roundup: Kathryn Bigelow's ZERO DARK THIRTY
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by Movies News Desk
ZERO DARK THIRTY has opened in select theaters in New York and Los Angeles and is set for wide release in January. The action thriller is the story of history's greatest manhunt for the world's most dangerous man. It follows the special operations forces mission to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.
Directed and co-produced by Kathryn Bigelow with a screenplay by Mark Boal, both associated with The Hurt Locker, the film stars Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain, Chris Pratt, James Gandolfini, Joel Edgerton, EdgaR Ramirez, and Mark Strong.
Richard Corliss, TIME MAGAZINE: First and last, Zero Dark Thirty is a movie, and a damned fine one. Like Argo — which, with all due respect to director Ben Affleck and the film’s many admirers, ZDT blows out of the water — it dramatizes a true-life international adventure with CIA agents as the heroes. (And it takes fewer fictional liberties with the source material than Affleck did.) In the tradition of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, Boal tracked down the particulars of a sensational exploit and, skipping the “non-fiction novel” stage, created an original screenplay that provides a streamlined timeline of the hunt for bin Laden.
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: Whether you call it well informed speculative history, docu-drama recreation or very stripped down suspense filmmaking, Zero Dark Thirty matches form and content to pretty terrific ends. A long-arc account of the search for Osama Bin Laden seen from the perspective of an almost insanely focused female CIA officer who never gives up the hunt until the prey ends up in a body bag, Kathryn Bigelow's and Mark Boal's heavily researched successor to The Hurt Locker will be tough for some viewers to take, not only for its early scenes of torture, including water boarding, but due to its denial of conventional emotionalism and non-gung ho approach to cathartic revenge-taking.
Peter Debruge, Variety: Far more ambitious than "The Hurt Locker," yet nowhere near so tripwire-tense, this procedure-driven, decade-spanning docudrama nevertheless rivets for most of its running time by focusing on how one female CIA agent with a far-out hunch was instrumental in bringing down America's most wanted fugitive.
Roger Friedman, Showbiz 411: If anyone worried that Kathryn Bigelow’s movie about the killing of Osama bin Laden would be a political statement promoting Barack Obama they can relax. Bigelow and Mark Boal have made a very focused and harrowing thriller that centers on the real life female CIA agent who was obsessed with catching and killing bin Laden. Jessica Chastain leads a huge cast, and puts herself right into competition with Jennifer Lawrence of “Silver Linings Playbook,” for Best Actress in a Drama.
Drew McWeeny, Hitfix: Over and over, the film dodges the easy version of a scene, and time after time, it pays off by making it feel real, observed, credible. We all have our fascinations, things that we obsess about, and for me, the American intelligence community has long been a subject I've immersed myself in, reading everything I can. Even so, I'm well aware that much of what intrigues me is what I can't read about, the nuts and bolts work of how intelligence is gathered, how it's sorted, how priorities are set. "Zero Dark Thirty" plays to the CIA-nerd in me, and in a way that films like James Bond and the Bourne series can't.
By David Poland, Movie City News: Bigelow & Boal are in a kind of sync that is rare in the history of cinema. Boal has raised the bar on the output of Bigelow’s master-level visual skill by giving her material to work with that is seriously challenging and meaningful. She’d make a great Bond movie, I suspect, but that was her earlier career. This is the stuff of Lean and Bolt. Of course, even that relationship had its misses. But this, the second movie for this duo, was ripe to be mediocre or even horrible. So there was enormous pressure to deliver… and in spite of that, they did.