Zero Dark Thirty is a film directed by Kathryn Bigelow, with a screenplay written by Mark Boal.  The film tells the story of Maya, a CIA operative who, for over a decade, is dedicated to a single mission—to find Osama bin Laden.  She spends every waking moment interrogating detainees and doing intense research in order to track down the world’s most wanted man.  After years of devoted work, some clues to the whereabouts of bin Laden emerge, and even though most high-ranking officials in the US government do not fully trust her about his location, Maya remains steadfast in her belief that she has finally found the infamous terrorist.

This is the second collaboration between Bigelow and Boal, the first being their Best Picture-winning film The Hurt Locker (2008).  After seeing their latest partnership at work, it is clearly evident that these two have an uncanny knack for creating spellbinding war-related movies.  Even though there are stark similarities between the two films, Zero Dark Thirty is based around true events of the manhunt for Osama bin Laden.  The movie was met with controversy due to its take on torturing detainees, but I quite enjoyed the veracity of these scenes, and without those, I feel the movie would have been significantly lacking a punch.  I truly believe this was one of the year’s most amazing films, and it will definitely be a top contender for the highest Oscar honors; with that said, it still does not quite meet the standards that The Hurt Locker originally set.

The story behind the creation of this film is fascinating.  Bigelow and Boal had originally written a screenplay about the notorious Battle of Tora Bora, and they had planned to tell the story of the long, but unsuccessful hunt for Osama bin Laden.  They were actually about to begin filming when news of bin Laden’s death broke.  Immediately, they stopped working on their original film and began to work on a brand new original screenplay about the killing of bin Laden.

Just like The Hurt Locker focused most of the movie on one particular character and his life during the war, Zero Dark Thirty concentrates on the emotional and professional growth of a single character, Maya (Jessica Chastain).  Even though there are some key supporting characters, like Dan (Jason Clarke), Patrick (Joel Edgerton), and George (Mark Strong), Maya’s character is the central figure the film uses to develop the plot.

Chastain is an actress who is rapidly gaining immense popularity due to some impressive performances in The Tree of Life (2011), The Help (2011), and Lawless (2012), and in this movie, she shows everyone why she is an Oscar-nominated actress.  She begins the movie as a shy, reluctant character, but quickly she becomes a fiery force to be reckoned with.  I was blown away by her portrayal of Maya, and this striking depiction may just earn her an Academy Award for Best Actress.  Zero Dark Thirty is rated R for strong violence, including brutal disturbing images, and language.

Academy Award nominations for Zero Dark Thirty:

Best Picture (Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, and Megan Ellison, Producers)

Actress in a Leading Role (Jessica Chastain)

Film Editing (Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg)

Sound Editing (Paul N.J. Ottosson)

Best Original Screenplay (Mark Boal)

Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of the Year:

4. Skyfall

5. Django Unchained

6. Life of Pi

7. Amour

8. Les Misérables

9. Beasts of the Southern Wild

10. Looper

11. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

12. The Dark Knight Rises

13. Flight

14. The Master

15. Argo


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