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Zero Dark Thirty


Stars: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Mark Strong, James Gandolfini, Kyle Chandler, Mark Duplass, Fredric Lehne, Stephen Dillane, John Barrowman, Scott Adkins, Harold Perrineau, Shabana Azmi

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Bigelow's intense if somewhat overlong film relates America's 10-year hunt for Osama Bin Laden, the many setbacks and final success.

Chastain stars as the agent who devotes a decade of her life to the search, often railing against authority to pursue paths she feels are right. The pursuit is long, tortuous and difficult, a lot like the film; it's certainly quite tough to follow all of it and it doesn't pay to let one's concentration lapse.

We open on scenes of torture, as US agents delve desperately for leads, and bursts of violence persist throughout, sometimes jarringly interrupting what are seemingly quite conventional scenes - and so the destruction of the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan in 2006, for example, provides a highly effective sudden shock.

Chastain's is not an easy role, and the fact that she's an attractive woman at times distracts (though it shouldn't) from the story. Other more familiar actors, such as Clarke, Barrowman, Gandolfini, Ehle and Duplass, sink themselves so far into their characters that we quite forget who they are.

How accurate a document this might be is impossible for the casual viewer to ascertain, of course, especially given the 'some fictionalised characters' disclaimer at the end. But it's often a powerful experience, if one that is also inevitably somewhat fragmented in nature.

David Quinlan

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour by deluxe.
160 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 19 Jan 2013