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A cinematic sucker punch

Zero Dark Thirty is thought provoking and, quite simply, one of the best pieces of cinema to be made this century.

PT2M14S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2ehrj 620 349

Zero Dark Thirty
Icon Films
4.5 stars: Captivating cinema that must be seen


Kathryn Bigelow's epic account of the hunt for, and capture of, Osama bin Laden opens on a black screen and a compile of real life audio from various emergency calls made from inside New York’s Twin Towers on September 11,  2001.

This cinematic sucker punch is harrowing, captivating and provides a fresh take on known events. It is a stroke of genius to begin a masterpiece.

One of the best pieces of cinema to be made this century. 

Quickly followed up with graphic torture it sets a benchmark for the movie, that somewhat extraordinarily, is maintained for the next two and a half hours.

Zero Dark Thirty.

A calm centre to a spiralling tale ... Jessica Chastain as Maya in Zero Dark Thirty.

Jessica Chastain delivers a career defining performance as Maya, the agent who joined the CIA out of high school, to begin her more than a decade long obsession with hunting down the al Qaeda leader.

The first two hours of the film present the decade long pursuit of knowledge, the final half hour the extraordinary raid on his compound, yet the film is Maya’s story even though she as often as not has no direct influence on events, and the glory of Chastain’s performance is her unobtrusive presence and transformation.

With essentially no major speeches, relationships or definitive actions of her own, Chastain unites the tale without dominating the screen.

Bigelow’s direction is astute and seamless. With so many potential pitfalls it is extraordinary that there is only one scene that feels like a mis-step, a brief encounter in which Mark Strong delivers a clunky team reprimand to his agents in an office as though taking on the mantle of a PE teacher. Yet even then, the quality of the film and story telling leads one to suspect that there was a deeper purpose to this; a line lost in a rewrite, a scene on the cutting room floor that would have paid out on this glitch.

This film is thoughtful yet pacey, lengthy yet tight, measured and yet often brutal.

It is not for, or against torture, or even the pursuit of Bin Laden, rather it is a conversation spark, a thought provoker and simply, one of the best pieces of cinema to be made this century.