Zero Dark Thirty (15)
Resolute handling of a determined manhunt
Friday 25 January 2013
Zero Dark Thirty is a gripping procedural thriller detailing the decade-long investigation which led to the military strike on Osama bin Laden's residential compound in Pakistan in 2011. It opens in a squalid bunker on a CIA "black site" in Pakistan in 2004, where a suspected Al-Qaeda middle-man is subjected to what the Bush administration euphemistically called "enhanced interrogation techniques".
"There's no shame if you want to watch through the monitor," the interrogator (Jason Clark) tells Maya (Jessica Chastain), an intelligence analyst assigned to the agency's Islamabad bureau. But Maya elects to stay in the room and confront the sight head-on. So too the film itself, which hopes to offer an unmediated, judgement-neutral representation of events.
Does it in some way glamorise military action? Well, yes. It's a movie, for one thing, and it stars Jessica Chastain for another. It is tightly edited and the action is compressed. But it is also sober, and trusts that there is enough drama, without having to manufacture more. It isn't much interested in its characters' private lives or personal histories.
If there is something in Maya's past to explain why she should remain so dogged in the hunt for Bin Laden, when everyone else in the CIA appears to move on, then the film doesn't care to tell us about it.
Instead, Mark Boal's screenplay – "Based on first-hand accounts of actual events", as the title-card puts it – is fascinated with intelligence-community jargon and "tradecraft". It is a workplace drama, about professionalism, pragmatism, military and government bureaucracy, and how things got done.
As is entirely right, it is up to the audience to pronounce upon the morality.
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 Stephen Hawking endorses Labour in the General Election
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark, series 1 finale, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3, review: Sansa and manhood-lopping torturer Ramsay Bolton - really?
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding