Put director Kathryn Bigelow together with reporter-turned-screenwrite Mark Boal and what you get are apparently über-tense movies about the War On Terror. First there was The Hurt Locker, where we got to follow a bomb disposal unit in Iraq, and now there’s Zero Dark Thirty, a gritty, suspense-laden movie about the decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden. And while I don’t want to give too much away about the movie’s ending, Bin Laden doesn’t make it.
Opening with a black screen and the voice of a woman on the phone who’s inside one of the two towers on 9/11, this movie goes for the jugular right from the start. The action then immediately shifts to Pakistan where a newbie agent (Jessica Chastain) gets a lesson in interrogation techniques during an equally intense scene. A lot of people have criticized this scene but I think Bigelow made a right call here by not making excuses for the torture or softening it up, but rather showing exactly what happened with the detached view of a reporter.
“Zero Dark Thirty” is an example of top-notch storytelling without any frills and even though it covers a decade-long manhunt of which we all know the outcome, it’s fast-paced and will have you biting on your nails for over two hours. When the movies finally reaches the finish line and a bunch of SEALS enter a compound somewhere in Pakistan, you’re right there with them even though you’re sitting on the edge of your seat and you know that this is what it must’ve been like.
Unlike her ex-husband James Cameron, Bigelow doesn’t need blue creatures or new 3D techonologies to make a movie. And unlike the nearly unwatchable Avatar, Zero Dark Thirty is a true instant classic.