1. "Zero Dark Thirty"
Like "All the President's Men" and "The Battle of Algiers," "Zero Dark Thirty" turns a story we know -- or,
rather, thought we knew -- into a riveting tale of tension and suspense. Like
"Zodiac," it depicts a hunt against the odds, and what that costs the people
committed to following a trail of rumors and half-truths. Like "Broadcast News,"
it depicts the humanity and humor of a high-stress workplace, where ordinary
people try to do extraordinary things and bond while getting on each other's
nerves, and vice-versa. Yet it's also its own film, and defiantly so.
Journalist-turned-screenwriter Mark Boal researched a script that speeds through
a decade like a lightning bolt, culminating in a silent raid on a house that
may, or may not, contain the most wanted man alive. Kathryn Bigelow's direction
turns truth into drama -- and, yes, takes a few liberties -- moving forward with
both dread and excitement. And Jessica Chastain's Maya, a monster
hunter who looks into the abyss, begins the film with frustration and ends it
alone, on a colossal plane, a few tears of exhaustion rolling down her face.
It's not an easy fist-pumping celebration of "We did it!" but deeper, more
difficult questions of "What now?" and "What next?" and "What did this cost us?"
With its unadorned style and slow-burn pacing, "Zero Dark Thirty" is a technical
and journalistic achievement as much as it is an artistic one, a film where
silence speak volumes and illumination is found in the shadows. -- James
Bing: More about 'Zero Dark Thirty' | More on Jessica Chastain
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