Kathryn Bigelow is a very talented director. One of the best female directors for sure, up there with Susanne Bier, Penny Marshall et al. I don't mean this to be a sexist comment, only a statement of objective comparison—men not included but could be. You will probably have seen Bigelow's best picture winner four years back, The Hurt Locker. I believe, her latest, Zero Dark Thirty, surpasses all her former work to emerge as a masterpiece documentary thriller.
The other contender for best thriller of the year will certainly be Ben Affleck's Argo and although a very well made film and Roger Ebert's pick for best picture of the year, I believe Zero Dark Thirty deserves the title and the praise. It's rather long, about two hours and forty minutes, but it doesn't feel as such. The attention to detail, technical craft, acting, dialogue and direction were marvelous. The torture sequences are hard to view but done with the upmost respect for an intelligent audience—in other words, the right amount of veracity and disquieting action with a modicum of queasyness. There is one political jab toward Obama for lying about torture but it's brief and not the main subject of the film.
The beauty of the picture lies in the documentary style. It's not quite like United 93, where you are intentionally made to not care about any characters but just to revel and stir in the sheer atrocious act, yet it is similar in vibe. You mainly only care about the lead CIA operative, Jessica Chastain and care you should. She is phenomenal. Her breakout year, 2011 contained no less than five films, many of which were very good. She in no way disappoints as the seemingly fragile but tough, smart, badass intelligence officer whom I happen to be secretly in love with. No doubt there will be some comparisons to Claire Danes character from Homeland.
The ending sequence is truly special. Watch closely. It feels like your present in a small Afghanistani town with the soldiers—so well directed. Surely, if it went down, it went down like this. I could be a sucker for believing that but I shall choose to keep my illusions. Stunning film and worthy of your time.
Recommended Viewing: The Conformist - JFK - Black Book - The Lives Of Others
Bob Scale: The Critic: 9.2 - The Fan: 8.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 94