So, here and there this weekend some “Zero Dark Thirty” reviews are popping up, and yay to all those positive reviews!
From director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, the team that brought you “The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty” — military jargon for 30 minutes after midnight — is as relentless and committed to its convictions and presentation as its main protagonist Maya (played by Jessica Chastain with firebrand passion), a CIA intelligence agent unremittingly driven by her pursuit of Bin Laden. The film slowly coils with an absorbing intensity. For better or worse, Bigelow extracts the details with myopic, laser precision until her characters find clues, inklings and suppositions to inform their argument concerning the whereabouts of the “world’s most dangerous man.”
(…)As far as awards go, (because at this point in the season it has to be discussed), “Zero Dark Thirty” could easily grab Best Directing and Picture nominations – Bigelow deftly impresses with her ability to compress events and tell a multifaceted tale without it ever feeling shortchanged – but whether the picture can grab the top slot remains to be seen, as it won’t be as user-friendly as “Les Misérables” or “Life of Pi” – both more emotionally engaging pictures. /Indiewire
I don’t know if there’s a real-life Maya, but Chastain inhabits this woman fully. It’s a very lived-in performance, and she continues to blow me away in terms of how much technical skill she exhibits as an actor, and yet how natural every choice she makes seems to be. Chastain is one of those performers where I’m sure there’s a ton of craft behind every beat of what she does, but she never appears to be “acting.” /HitFlix
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. The word “docudrama” doesn’t hint at Boal’s achievement. This is movie journalism that snaps and stings, that purifies a decade’s clamor and clutter into narrative clarity, with a salutary kick. /Time
Stepping up from a year busy with supporting roles, Chastain may at first seem an unusual choice for the lead. But she shows she has the chops to embody the pic’s iron-nerved protag, holding her own in the testosterone-thick world of CIA black sites and top-level Washington boardrooms. She first appears as witness to a military interrogation in which a colleague resorts to extreme measures to force information from an Al Qaeda money handler (Reda Kateb).
Compared with her wild-eyed cowboy of a colleague, Dan (Jason Clarke), Maya’s body language suggests a little girl, clearly uncomfortable with the waterboarding and sexual humiliation that were common practice in the morally hazy rendition era. When Dan leaves the room for a moment, the desperate prisoner tries to appeal to her humanity. She wavers for only a moment before firing back, “You can help yourself by being truthful.”
Unlike, for instance, Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling in “The Silence of the Lambs,” Chastain plays Maya as fragile on the outside, Kevlar-tough beneath the skin. After narrowly surviving one terrorist attack and seeing another promising lead literally blow up in a female colleague’s face, Maya grits her teeth and swears, “I’m gonna smoke everybody involved in this op, and then I’m going to kill bin Laden.” /Variety