#95. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Written by: Mark Boal
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong
One of just six films from the 2010’s on my list, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty is a film that I didn’t immediately connect with upon seeing it. It’s deliberate pacing and controversial political subject matter certainly isn’t for everybody, but it’s exactly what I came to love about the film. As far as procedural films go, Zero Dark Thirty is truly one of the all-time greats. It follows Jessica Chastain’s CIA operative Maya as she works to track down Osama Bin Laden – no matter the consequences. Along the way she loses friends and colleagues, is forced to employ some less than ethical tactics, and rises up in the ranks of the CIA. Maya’s mission is not an easy one, but it’s something she’s hell-bent on seeing through to the bitter end. Kathryn Bigelow’s steady, unflinching direction works perfectly to compliments the film’s slow-burn pacing, and helps to set the tone for its many pitch black moments. Bigelow and writer Mark Boal ask some incredibly big questions about patriotism, national security, and how far is too far – even if it means making the world a better place. Jessica Chastain’s performance as the obsessive CIA agent Maya is incredible – she perfectly portrays Maya’s stubborn, patriotic, dedicated mindset, showing how it affects her and those around her negatively and positively. Her internal moral struggle with doing the right thing and seeing the job through to the end alone makes the film worth a watch. The highlight of Zero Dark Thirty comes in its climactic compound raid scene – Bigelow’s choice to employ night vision cameras makes this a sequence that must be seen to be believed. Zero Dark Thirty is a truly modern masterpiece.