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Zero Dark Thirty

The greatest manhunt in history. 

Year: 2012 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow 
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt  
An image from Zero Dark Thirty

It’s been three years since Kathryn Bigelow’s 2010 Oscar glory, where her movie The Hurt Locker picked up an impressive six awards. Up until a few months ago it looked as though Zero Dark Thirty, Bigelow’s most recent cinematic offering, looked set to do the same – but controversies surrounding its depiction of torture meant the film was wrongfully snubbed at this year’s Academy Awards.

Given its subject matter, it was perhaps inevitable that the movie came up against some criticism. However, pushing the controversy aside, Zero Dark Thirty still emerges as a film that is not afraid to confront some difficult events and issues. Maya (Jessica Chastain) is a young but highly capable CIA agent, responsible for leading America’s decade-long hunt to find Osama Bin Laden following the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001. Chastain gives one of her most brilliant performances to date, as Maya’s persistence in tracking down America’s Most Wanted terrorist reaches an intense climax in the raid that resulted in Bin Laden’s death, a sequence that is shot more or less in real time.

Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal are unquestionably back on top form here. The film’s opening scene, where a blank screen is accompanied simply by the audio recording of phone calls made by those trapped inside the World Trade Centre on 9/11, projects the horrific, all-too-familiar images of the Twin Towers into our minds, rather than showing them on screen. Whilst Boal never fleshes out the main characters to any great extent, this actually works in the films favour, serving to focus the attention entirely upon the search for Bin Laden rather than becoming caught up with unnecessary character development.

Harrowing, occasionally sentimental but, above all, a powerful watch: Zero Dark Thirty is a brilliantly gripping, well-paced thriller, for which Bigelow deserves far more praise and recognition than she has so far received.

Laura Davenport

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Screenings of this film:

2012/2013 Summer Term (35mm)
2012/2013 Summer Term (35mm)