Star rating - 7/10
It must be one of the biggest hazards of making a film about the recent past, that real life events will overtake the story during the production. That is exactly what happened to Kathryn Bigelow when she was making her follow up to the stupendous war portrait Hurt Locker. Zero Dark Thirty was intended to tell the story of the failed hunt by the CIA for al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. So it must have been inconvenient and pretty costly when two thirds of the movie complete, they went and killed him in real life (and yes I know some people dispute that this ever happened but let's just go with it for now).
The two thirds finished product obviously had to be completely rewritten to track the news. And perhaps this is a lesson that a little more time should be allowed to pass before the film maker's lens should examine recent history. I have got to say I am a little mystified and a tad disappointed at the result. For example, Bigelow has gone on record as being totally against the use of torture of prisoners - the problem is that you wouldn't know that from watching this film. Not surprisingly, it is not being released in Pakistan, as it is definitely a US-tinted version of events, without the distance and humanitarian stance of her previous film.
As a piece it is thrillingly well made, which is no mean feat, as we all know how this tale ends. And it is extremely well acted - Jessica Chastain is superb as the central CIA agent on a one woman mission to capture bin Laden against all the odds. Sadly you can't help but make comparisons of her character to that of Carrie Mathison in Homeland, and Carrie was first and best in my book. It almost seems a bit of a caricature following in Homeland's footsteps - a strong woman, with no friends or close relationship, in an obsessional search for a high level terrorist target, often in total opposition to her superiors- it's all a bit clichéd now.
And will you allow me to have a trivial moan? - good - then all I will ask is why is Mark Strong, a good actor and even better looking chap, made to wear a wig? All I could think of while he was on screen was the wig. And his American accent was a bit of a curate's egg - good in parts.
So Zero Dark Thirty has nothing like the impact of The Hurt Locker due to its compromised subject matter - but is a thrilling watch nevertheless.