Kathryn BigelowUSA154 minutes2012English
Any film that purported to reveal the true story of the CIA's hunt for Osama bin Laden — and the nighttime raid on his safe house in Pakistan that ended with the al-Qaeda leader's death at the hands of US Navy SEALs — was bound to be controversial in our fiercely partisan times, but nothing could have prepared Bigelow and her Hurt Locker collaborator Mark Boal for the criticism they would face for Zero Dark Thirty. Jessica Chastain anchors the film as a tenacious intelligence analyst (a composite of several real women) who spends ten years on bin Laden's trail, her pursuit growing into a personal obsession. As in The Hurt Locker, Bigelow and Boal ostentatiously withhold comment in their depictions of CIA torture and the SEAL mission itself; in this instance, however, the collaborators were met with a host of accusations that ZDT was essentially CIA propaganda. (Seymour Hersh's subsequent revelations categorically undercut the Agency's claims about how they finally located bin Laden, lending even greater credence to these criticisms.) Nevertheless, the film remains riveting despite (or because of) the liberties taken by the filmmakers, with Bigelow yet again displaying her masterful command of narrative and action.