It takes a special kind of director and screenwriter to take a story that we all know the ending to and turn it into a compelling movie that keeps us well and truly gripped to the end.

James Cameron did it, now Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, the tried and tested talent behind the multiple Academy Award winning ‘The Hurt Locker’, have done it with aplomb. ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ is the story of Maya, a straight-out-of-high-school CIA agent who won’t rest until she has tracked down and eliminated Osama Bin Laden. The film chronicles the decade-long hunt for Bin Laden that ended with his death at the hands of a
Navy S.E.A.L team in May 2011.

The film opens with the haunting sounds of 911 calls made during the September 11 attacks, a harrowing start to a movie that doesn’t shy away from the horrors and controversies of the war on terror. It has encountered some criticism from the CIA and US Government based on the torture and interrogation scenes that frequent the opening sequences of the film. Bigelow brilliantly generates sympathy for both the interrogated and interrogator and we share Maya’s discomfort at having to witness these brutal episodes. What Bigelow achieves so well is the presentation of the question; ‘how else can the necessary information be obtained?’ a question that should make us very uncomfortable to ask and, in turn, another triumph for the filmmakers.

At two hours long, the film moves fairly swiftly through the ten years of Maya’s work. Various experiences, encounters and losses see her change from fresh, naïve CIA agent to ballsy, brash, results-driven hero. It’s her drive to keep going when everyone else has given up that is the key ingredient to locating Bin Laden. We are sucked into Maya’s life and as a result we triumph and suffer with her.

There is an unmistakable feeling of truth to Zero Dark Thirty: A truth in the characters and their decisions and a truth in their dialogue and emotion. Maya is played superbly by Jessica Chastain, who oozes charisma and empathy on screen. Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler and Jennifer Ehle put in brilliant supporting performances backed by a cast of relatively unknown but entirely convincing actors. The action is superbly directed and
shot and the tension in the film is sharp and real.

One can’t help but draw comparisons to the hugely successful TV Series ‘Homeland’, similar in style and mood and with which Zero Dark Thirty almost shares a protagonist. The film also can’t boast any huge amount of originality in genre, setting or subject matter. That said, it is always refreshing to have a serious, credible, adult heroine on the big screen and regardless, it’s not long before any reservations are replaced by

There’s no doubt that this film will be there or thereabouts this award season and any accolades gained by the production would be thoroughly deserved. A brilliant piece of cinematic filmmaking and a must-see on the big screen.