San Francisco Chronicle
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Zero Dark Thirty
"Zero Dark Thirty" arrives in theaters already surrounded by controversy. Three U.S. senators (John McCain, Carl Levin and Dianne Feinstein) have called the film "grossly inaccurate and misleading" for its suggestion that the CIA's use of torture led to the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have countered that their movie does not favor torture but does accurately portray the events as related by CIA sources. A movie review is no place to evaluate these conflicting claims, except to say that the film does seem to indicate that torture led the CIA to bin Laden, and in that way could be called "pro-torture." Yet more essential, at least for this discussion, is that "Zero Dark Thirty" is also one of the most innovative and best made films of the past year. Every now and then, even Dick Cheney gets to like a great movie. Like Bigelow's Oscar-winning "The Hurt Locker," "Zero Dark Thirty" has a measured but jittery pace, a pulse to the camera work that creates the sense of seeing the world through the eyes of someone methodical, observant and tense. The eye hovers, takes in every detail and expects the worst. Bigelow has an ability that few filmmakers have, one that Hitchcock had, the ability to make an audience nervous even when nothing bad is happening. In the case of Bigelow, the dread that is committed to celluloid and transferred to the audience is that of the security professional, who sees the outer world as a thin facade covering an abyss of conspiracy, corruption and looming doom. This is the mental landscape of the CIA agent, so that even though most of "Zero Dark Thirty" takes place in offices, with people examining information and debating its meaning, this sense of urgency, this weird jumpiness, pervades - and it energizes every moment. Jessica Chastain stands at the center of "Zero Dark Thirty," starring in a way...
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