The story behind the story of Zero Dark Thirty is really interesting. See, director Kathryn Bigelow was planning on making a ultra-realistic film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden before we actually killed him, with the film reportedly ending with bin Laden getting away. And then we killed him. The script was then of course completely rewritten to incorporate the raid and the end product is now in theaters. The film follows Maya (Jessica Chastain), a CIA operative who desperately tries to hunt down bin Laden, following dead-end leads, mysterious couriers, interrogations and deaths until a vital piece of evidence leads to Seal Team 6's raid on bin Laden compound.
Zero Dark Thirty is just as ultra-realistic as the original planned film. It presents the events of the film without any kind of twist. Despite the raid being one of the biggest "'Merica!" moments in recent memory, the film is hardly patriotic. Unlike last year's Act of Valor, which relied heavily on Dude-Bro Call of Duty fans enjoying it, Zero Dark Thirty presents itself almost as History class notes. This is what happened, this is why it happened, you decide whether or not it's a good thing. As such, the film has a level of detachment allows for the film to get really intense into it's story. The actors all do a great job and all seem to always have a strong understanding of what the film needs. Special notice has to be given to Chastain, who gives one of the best performances of anyone last year.
Special mention as well, I feel, has to go to the actual raid scene itself, which may very well become an iconic movie scene from the last few years. The scene lasts about 25 minutes, only a few minutes shorter than the actual raid and I was safely on the edge of my seat throughout the entire time. The scene goes by with the silence often getting interrupted by the piercing sounds of the gunfire and explosions. The scene with magnificently intense and makes for a great and smart climax for the already great 2 hours that came before it.
Of course, Zero Dark Thirty has been in the news recently, with several people claiming that the film "endorses" torture, due to a scene early on in the film involving the torture of a terrorist for information. The controversy, however, is hardly existent. Though people seem to want to make it out to be such, the film doesn't actual endorse torture. The film showcases scene of torture that never actual yield anything important to the capture of bin Laden, which people seem to love saying is actually the opposite. Which it isn't. The scenes themselves are so tough to watch that it's hard to believe that anyone could actually walk out of the theater thinking that Zero Dark Thirty was actually pro-torture. On top of that, it's especially hard to make a stand for something when you never make a stand for something. The film doesn't flat out say that "Torture is bad!" because the film does want to take a stand on anything. It wants to present the facts and let the audience decide.
Zero Dark Thirty is such a great film that I'm seriously considering calling it a 2013 release just so I can put it on this year's top ten list. If I had seen it last year, it would have definitely been in my top three best films of the year. It's an incredibly smart and unflinching look at one of the most intense moments in our history, backed by a great cast and director to make it all work. See this movie. Now. Zero Dark Thirty gets 6 stars out of 6.