Kathryn Bigelow is arguably one of the best war film directors of all time and with Zero Dark Thirty, her cinematic synopsis of the decade-long hunt on Osama bin Laden, she has realised yet another mesmerising portrayal of real-live events.
The film captures a timespan of almost ten years, beginning with actual recordings of the September 11 attacks over a black screen and ending with the killing of the Al-Qaeda leader and as such, it is understandably long more than two and a half hours long to be precise. From a realistic perspective, this seems only reasonable if Bigelow wants to authentically recreate the many years of failure and despair in the famous manhunt through almost every shot lingering on for a couple of seconds and an immense lot of bureaucracy. From a filmmaking perspective however, trimming or excluding some parts and omitting at least a handful of the estimated 200 characters would have been very helpful. This didn't happen and therefore the result is nerve-rackingly boring at times, but Bigelow mostly manages to overcome this with a brilliant acting cast, several of them getting a chance to prove all their dramatic talent, and a phenomenal Jessica Chastain in the leading role.
What's additionally beneficial for Zero Dark Thirty is its way of handling the controversial source material: the inhumane "enhanced interrogation methods" by the CIA are fittingly dreadful to watch, as long as you aren't an uber-patriotic racist, you won't find solace or even joy in the ending, and none of the characters of both parties are likable. And then there is the action. Going out on a limb, I'd say that the raid on bin Laden's hide-out will become one of the most iconic pieces of filmmaking of the 21st century, as it is just so masterfully crafted. The sequence goes on for about as long as it did in reality, which is some twenty minutes, and Bigelow really makes you feel as if you were there. The downright perfect sound, editing, and cinematography create a mood that has its audience sitting on the edge of their seat, even though they all know only too well how it's about to end, which is one of the biggest cinematic feats a director can achieve.
Zero Dark Thirty is a highly important film one that suffers from its length and sloppy exposition that doesn't always make clear what has just happened, but one that gives further insight and intensity to what we've seen on the news.