, Port Arthur, Texas


January 11, 2013

‘Zero Dark Thirty’ is one of the year’s best

— “Zero Dark Thirty” is director Katheryn Bigelow’s follow up to her Academy Award winning film, “The Hurt Locker.” Not only is it another military-based thriller, but it’s also one of the best films of the year. Indeed, I think that this latest endeavor is superior to the film that brought Bigelow Oscar gold two years ago.

The film does have its detractors, but the naysayers seem to be up in arms over Bigelow’s access to military secrets and the film’s portrayal of torture as an effective method of interrogation. These are certainly legitimate issues, but they don’t comment on the film itself. I repeat that “Zero Dark Thirty” is an intense military thriller that features a director at the top of her game and Jessica Chastain in a performance that’s generally thought to be the Oscar front-runner.

Chastain plays Maya, an amalgamation character of a CIA analyst sent to Pakistan in the days following the September 11th attacks. Everybody is searching for Osama bin Laden, and it’s difficult to sort through all the confusing names and information. The scent goes cold and priorities shift, but Maya stays hot on the trail. She doggedly pursues bin Laden’s couriers and associates. Even after her cover is blown and she’s forced to return to the United States, she is never far from the chase.

It all leads up to a tense confrontation between this determined young woman and a group of top brass government officials who are worried about the fall out if they send a military force into Pakistan and then find out that her information was incorrect. Of course we know that she was right, and the film’s final half hour puts the audience into the thrilling night time raid on the bin Laden compound. It makes for a great, jingoistic finale, but it’s not really the point of the film. In fact, the filmmakers started writing the story before the Seal Team 6 raid, so the ending is more kismet than climax.

Chastain is amazing in the central role. She fills her character with steely resolve. Even in the face of those tough torture sequences, she doesn’t stray from her task of tracking down the Al Qaeda terrorists that threaten the country. It’s a performance made all the more effective by the fact that Chastain is so small in comparison to the Alpha male actors who frequently surround her in the film. I predict Oscar gold for the actress.

“Zero Dark Thirty” also boasts of a solid screenplay by Mark Boal that manages to both capture the confusion of the chase for bin Laden as well as clarify things enough for the audience to follow along. Mix that in with the strong acting, Bigelow’s assured direction and superb production design all around, and you’re left with one of the best films of the year, despite what the naysayers would have you believe.


Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at

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