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'Zero Dark Thirty' more than an action thriller

Both epic-scaled and intimate, “Zero Dark Thirty” is a masterly accumulation of journalistic detail and fictional urgency that packs a potent one-two punch.
BY DENNIS KING Modified: January 10, 2013 at 5:58 pm •  Published: January 11, 2013

Maya is a composite figure based on a real-life CIA operative who Boal encountered in his research. It's one of the film's more daring conceits to cast her as the single most dogged pursuer in the decade-long hunt for bin Laden.

In his second outing with Bigelow (after their Oscar winning work on “The Hurt Locker”) Boal deftly evokes inspiration from The New Journalism of the 1960s and '70s, working in the tradition of such so-called “nonfiction novels” as Truman Capote's “In Cold Blood” and Tom Wolfe's “The Right Stuff” to create a form of cinematic storytelling he calls “the reported film.”

Even given the necessary composites, distortions, dramatizations and broad literary license taken, Bigelow and Boal's fictionalized version of the post-9/11 manhunt wields uncommon power to cast complex and abstract historical events into a defining narrative. For good or ill, this is likely the version of events most people will equate with fact.

Both epic-scaled and intimate, “Zero Dark Thirty” is a masterly accumulation of journalistic detail and fictional urgency that packs a potent one-two punch — it draws us in with entertaining urgency and leaves us struggling with the flawed concept of “closure” and the questionable place of ruthlessness in service of our humanity.

— Dennis King


MOVIE REVIEW

‘Zero Dark Thirty'

R2:374 stars

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Ehle. (For strong violence including brutal, disturbing images, and for language)

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