Zero Dark Thirty – Gripping and Suspenseful Storytelling | Gary McKeating

Kathryn Bigelow’s cinematic effort to portray the decade long search for Osama Bin Laden is both gripping and suspenseful even though as a viewer you know the outcome of the United States most expensive manhunt. Bigelow provides a slow and intense dramatized depiction of the operation that ended with the Al Qaeda leader’s death. Throughout the film Bigelow addresses the issue of torture as a method that was used by the CIA and the scenes fit perfectly in the landscape that Bigelow is portraying. The film feels as long in time as the hunt was long in life; the course of the film is over a ten year period and Bigelow’s film is nearly 3 hours long. The pacing, however, gives the viewer the feeling that they have partaken in this manhunt and they need to catch Bin Laden as much as the United States. It never feels long and drawn out, just long and purposeful.

Bigelow starts the film with just a black screen, the date and a recording of 9/11 playing. The scene is emotionally driven and ensures the viewer had not forgotten why this man had become so wanted and why the mission to bring Bin Laden down was still so important.

Bigelow cast Jessica Chastain as the main character and the story revolves around her determination to fight the war on terror. Jessica Chastain superbly plays Maya, a CIA operative whose sole purpose of existence is to find Osama Bin Laden. Chastain was an inspired choice as she steals every scene she is in, including some scenes with the great James Gandolfini.  Chastain brings a powerful and emotionally charged portrayal to the film that simmers with anxious intensity ready to spill over at any moment. Every time Maya is on the screen the level of importance to the manhunt at hand is spelt out crystal clear through the immense acting talent of Chastain. Chastain is simply amazing and has earned every award that comes her way.


The unfolding of the story is a work of art as Bigelow shows the struggle Maya has to deal with to get Bin Laden and his henchmen. Bigelow also captures the moment in political history when the current United States government decides to move away from torture as a key interrogation method that had been extremely popular by its predecessor. Bigelow’s tremendous cinematic vision of the final mission to take Bin Laden is one of exquisite beauty. The mission is intense, well shot and delivers the liberation that the viewers are so desperately seeking at the finale of this epic masterpiece. And that’s it then, no fireworks or grand celebrations, just an emotional release of relief emphatically pouring out through the tears of Chastain.

Magnificent in its storytelling, Zero Dark Thirty graphically tells the historic account of America’s greatest mission on terror with a touch of cinematic craftsmanship. Bigelow has assembled an immense array of talented actors and she certainly puts it to use with Chastain delivering a career best performance. Zero Dark Thirty is one of the finest movies of the year and a sure fire award winner.

Verdict: 5/5.