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'Zero Dark Thirty' tells riveting story

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POSTED: January 25, 2013 11:11 a.m.
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Jessica Chastain stars as a CIA agent in "Zero Dark Thirty."

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This year has a very interesting Oscar race. There are nine Best Picture nominees to choose from, and picking the best one seems daunting.
One film on that list is “Zero Dark Thirty,” director Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to her Oscar-winning “The Hurt Locker.” How powerful is this contender? Pretty powerful.
“Zero Dark Thirty” tells the story of what the official website calls “history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man” — Osama bin Laden. CIA officer Maya (Jessica Chastain) is introduced to the Islamabad station following 9/11. Her tenacity and hard work lead her into a chase that ultimately ends in bin Laden’s death.
Another reason the current Oscar race is so interesting is that many of the films are historical in nature. We already know what will happen, but they are riveting and suspenseful nonetheless. “Zero Dark Thirty” is no different.
The film is delivered in three acts. In act one, Dan (Jason Clarke) acclimates Maya to torture techniques used on detainees to glean intel. At times, it’s hard to watch. In act two, Maya bites down on a lead and refuses to let go, despite Washington’s lack of faith. And in act three, the film recreates that remarkable insertion of SEAL Team 6 into the compound that housed the world’s most dangerous terrorist.
It’s hard to tell fact from fiction in this film, but the depiction is highly believable. I applaud the picture for taking what I felt was an unbiased stance on controversial issues, though some have called it pro-torture.
It’s hard to believe that two women, Chastain and Bigelow, created such an uncompromising look at this ugly manhunt. Chastain’s strong-yet-often-subtle, Oscar-nominated performance especially is praiseworthy, since she’s basically nothing like her on-screen character. The peace-loving vegan told Glamour.com she lived with photos of terrorists hanging in her hotel room during filming in order to get into character, and the experience left her deeply depressed.
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