One of the biggest challenges in making a great film about history is how to make a movie exciting and suspenseful when everyone in the audience already knows the ending.
Kathryn Bigelow masters that task with taut direction and a great, smart screenplay by her "Hurt Locker" writing partner Mark Boal in ZERO DARK THIRTY.
Opening with a blank screen and powerful, real audio from 9/11 and then diving directly into the pursuit of Osama Bin Laden, Jessica Chastain is introduced as Maya, a young CIA operative assigned to the team tracking down the terrorist leader.
Over the next 12 years, cleverly detailed over the films 157 minutes, Maya and her team track everyone surrounding bin Laden until they finally discover the compound in Pakistan where bin Laden is hiding in plain sight.
Jason Clarke is great as CIA op Dan, Kyle Chandler and James Gandolfini provide strong support in their roles as Maya's superiors.
The last half hour of the film is a real time re-enactment of the raid of Osama Bin Laden's compound by Navy SEAL Team Six. The fact that this compound was less than a mile from the West Point of our supposed ally Pakistan ought to infuriate everyone. The fact we are still giving them American aid/money for anything ought to make us all go blind with rage.
The raid sequence in ZERO DARK THIRTY is so well executed, so tight and so exciting, it lifts the entire film from very good to excellent.
Chastain is strong, becoming the audience as she goes from horrified at interrogation methods to accepting of their results in protecting Americans.
The film is not a political statement, you will see the details through the tint of your own political glasses, but it is one of the best thrillers of the year and Bigelow's finest film to date. It's a riveting, intelligent movie and a very solid A.