No questioning the US War of Terror

Title: Zero Dark Thirty

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Rated: M

Director Kathryn Bigelow continues her cinematic study of American militaria in Zero Dark Thirty. In her 2009 Best Picture Oscar-winning movie The Hurt Locker she was above ground in the 'war on terror', following the gritty work of a maverick soldier in a bomb disposal unit on the streets of Baghdad. In Zero Dark Thirty Bigelow moves into the underworld of the seemingly endless 'war on terror' with a dramatisation of the covert US operations that resulted in the storming of Osama bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan, and his death.

The film is written by former war journalist Mark Boal and it digs into the dark side of America's war. The main character in the bin Laden pursuit, agent Maya (Jessica Chastain), is apparently based on an actual female CIA agent, who still remains covert. The film's title is a military term relating to the darkness and secrecy of 30 minutes after midnight.

Zero Dark Thirty has created considerable controversy due to its lack of any moral stance on the CIA's use of torture and also on the timing of its release, possibly assisting Obama's re-election. It is certainly a celebration of grand American grit and the unflinching determination to 'get their man'.

The story follows the single-minded determination of agent Maya over eight years to locate bin Laden, whilst various terrorist acts explode around the world. Along the way comrades die and she must endure personal and political attacks.

Zero Dark Thirty is well constructed and as demonstrated in The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow is most adept at handling action sequences. Even though we all know where the story ends, the raid on bin Laden's suburban compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011, the action finale is both gripping and haunting.

However, much of this long movie is an investigative procedural drama, in the vein of a very overblown police/espionage show. While Chastain is effective in her role, it's fairly one-dimensional, and apart from her early apparent distaste for waterboarding torture, her research and doggedness are largely by-the-numbers.

Zero Dark Thirty is a harrowing movie. However, no questions at all are answered about the terrible cost of the terror wars and the hunt and killing of Osama bin Laden.

Zero Dark Thirty is currently screening at Birch Carroll & Coyle Cinemas, Lismore.

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