Zero Dark Thirty

DRAMA; 2hr 47min

STARRING: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Reda Kateb

Scent of a woman: Chastain

It’s no mystery how the CIA’s 10-year hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden ended, but what of the effort it took to get there? Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal’s sensational dramatisation of the seat-of-the-pants events that culminated in bin Laden’s killing by Navy SEAL Team Six opens with audio from Sept. 11, 2001. It then jumps to 2003 Pakistan, where a terrorist (Kateb) is being tortured by a CIA operative (Clarke). Porcelain-pretty newcomer Maya (Chastain) watches in dismay. She rapidly grows acclimatised, however, developing a rottweiler’s tenacity to become her job.


In the edgily shifting jigsaw of Boal’s unsparing screenplay, which moves from Pakistan to Poland to Afghanistan to England and on, Maya is the fixated constant. Unfolding in impersonal offices, arid bases and internment facilities and on the hectic Pakistan streets, the CIA team’s pursuit of key al-Qaeda personnel is a baffling and frightening thicket of frustration. As they did with The Hurt Locker, Bigelow and Boal’s great gift is to get inside the collective psyche and involved logistics of a front line. The two lay bare that grey and precarious area with actors whose dedication to getting it right is as absolute as their own.