My main reason for wanting to see Zero Dark Thirty, was because it's director Kathryn Bigelow's follow up to her film The Hurt Locker, for which she became the first woman in History to win an Oscar for Best Director. The Hurt Locker was one of the most intense and affecting movies that I have ever experienced. My stomach was in knots throughout the entire movie. I went into Zero Dark Thirty, expecting a similar experience.
Although a very well crafted and affecting film, Zero Dark Thirty was not on par with The Hurt Locker. This is not to say that it isn't one of the best movies of the year or underserving of its many awards and accolades. It just didn't have the same level of intensity and I felt less engaged with the characters. The pacing of the movie was slow to start and didn't immediately grab my attention.
Jessica Chastain is well cast as Maya, a CIA Operative chasing after leads to catch Osama Bin Laden. She carries the film with the help of a strong supporting cast, including a nearly unrecognizable James Gandolfini, whose betrays him. I love Chastain because she is such a chameleon in every role and is such an interesting actress to watch. She nails it in this film and although I have not seen all of the nominees, I suspect that she will take home the Oscar.
This movie has been swirling with controversy. I went in and just experienced it as a movie, not too fussed with fact vs fiction. I left feeling that there was a good dose of both. Really, both in truth and in fiction, the situation is rife with gray areas and people trying to make the best decisions with the resources that they have been given while working under extreme duress. This is what made the story so compelling and to me, it didn't matter how much of the movie was hard fact, as I feel that it touched upon the key issues and emotions.
As a side note, Bigelow's 1991 movie, Point Break is one of my guilty pleasures. Even better than watching the movie, is seeing the live theater version of the movie, where they cast an audience member to play the Keanu Reeves role. I've seen the Los Angeles production at the Dragonfly twice and it's one of the most hilarious, crazy and audience participatory theater events that I have ever experienced. I highly recommend it. If you go, don't skimp on the poncho, or you'll be sorry!