Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton
Written by: Mark Boal (“The Hurt Locker”)
Directed by: Katheryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”)

In a year where all the buzz seems to be about “Lincoln,” a film chronicling one of the most important events in U.S., and frankly, human history, another film depicting the events of recent history finally makes its way to theaters nationwide. Oscar-winning director of “The Hurt Locker,” Katheryn Bigelow steps behind the camera for “Zero Dark Thirty,” a compelling look into the events leading up to and the actual mission to kill Osama Bin Laden.

The film is driven quite impressively by Oscar-nominated actress Jessica Chastain (“The Help”), as she brings a stoic intensity to the role. In a part that requires a strong female presence, Chastain is most impressive when she must go toe-to-toe with her male counterparts and assert her dominance. Behind Chastain, there is a cavalcade of well-acted supporting performances from great veteran actors. Though most of these supporting cast members don’t get more than a few scenes, the best of the performances belong to Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler and Mark Strong.

From a technical standpoint, “Zero Dark Thirty” has very few flaws. There are so many ways in which the construction of the film excels, but none is more front and center than the pacing. Simply stated, “Zero Dark Thirty” is a clinic in pacing. The film is compartmentalized into chapters, a smart decision when telling a story that takes place over a long period of time. The constant flow and a fantastic editing job keeps scenes from running long and the film from becoming boring at any point. One of things “Zero Dark Thirty” is particularly good at is delivering the narrative and information in a meat-and-potatoes kind of way during the terrorist pursuit. Many names, locations and faces are given throughout the movie and to the films credit, never is there a moment of confusion about what is being talked about.

While the actual mission and raid that killed Bin Laden is an integral part of the film, “Zero Dark Thirty” is mostly about a woman’s endless pursuit to find him. With that being the case, a large majority of the film is spent on the research and tactics it took to lead this team to Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. Though the scene of the raid is impressive in its own right, it is the moments that build up to it that are truly stellar. The behind-the-scene meetings and the intelligence missions are just a few of the truly captivating moments of the film. know the outcome of. Bigelow is also able to find tension in events that the audience might already know the outcome of. She constructs scenes that allow not only factual information based on real events to be told, but to bring personalities and build complex characters around them. Her absence from the list of Best Director Oscar nominees is a snub in every sense of the word.

“Zero Dark Thirty” is marred with controversy about the depiction of torture and its meaning in the film. For whatever it’s worth, I never got the feeling of a political agenda one way or another while watching the film. In fact, I thought that the events in the film were largely depoliticized. Thanks to expert pacing and narrative structure, “Zero Dark Thirty” doesn’t feel anywhere close to its two and a half-hour run time. Outstandingly acted, thoroughly cohesive and profoundly intriguing, “Zero Dark Thirty” stands firmly as the best film of 2012.

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