“Here’s to the big breaks and the little people who make them happen.” That’s a line spoken by Jennifer Ehle’s CIA operative Jessica in Zero Dark Thirty, opening nationwide on January 11th. When we think of spies, we usually think of Nick Fury and his eye patch or a dapper British playboy with a ton of funky gadgets. The last thing we think of is little or ordinary. The truth is, most spies look like a bank teller, an IT worker or even the person in the cubicle sitting next to you at work. The spies of today may seem ordinary, but they are far from it, as shown in Kathryn Bigelow’s new thriller Zero Dark Thirty.

If you thought Bigelow’s last film The Hurt Locker was an intense-watch, wait until you see the journey Bigelow takes us on in Zero Dark Thirty. Even though it’s a journey we are all familiar with, most don’t know the blood, sweat, tears and the exhaustive man hours that went into catching the most wanted man in the world, Osama bin Laden. Bigelow holds no punches in her film-making. Having to deal with torture and whether it’s the right or the wrong thing to do in the situation to protect Americans is an important issue. Or the political bureaucracy that made America seem too scared or even lazy in the search for the man who took 3,000 innocent lives on September 11th, 2001. One thing I know for sure, after watching Zero Dark Thirty, I never want to be water-boarded. The scenes left me gasping for air.

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Bigelow gives the audience an honest depiction of American tactics, where if you want to find the bad people who did you wrong, you may have to do things which are not always acceptable by moral standards. The dirty deeds included cash pay-offs and the threat of violence, and in one case they turned a detainee over to Israel. Trust me, the terrorists involved didn’t want any part of Israeli’s methods of gaining information.

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Bigelow’s story telling is superb and enthralling considering you already know the ending to Zero Dark Thirty. I sometimes have problems with movies in which I know the outcome.  Apollo 13 is well made movie, but I knew those three astronauts got back to earth safe and sound in the end. It failed to capture the danger of the moment. This is not the case in Zero Dark Thirty. The film is filled with white knuckle action and a few jumps mixed into the superbly written story. I will say if you’re looking for a movie about Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 you may be disappointed. The group is not present until the third act, but I will say the S.E.A.L Team is involved in the most suspenseful night vision goggles scene since The Silence of the Lambs.

Bigelow tells a great story, but the performance of Jessica Chastain takes the movie to the next level. Chastain’s role as Mya, the persistent, cold and tough as nails analyst is the best performance of any actor this year. That includes Mr. DDL’s Lincoln. Chastain shows tremendous range since her last Oscar nominated role as a sweet, but troubled housewife in The Help. Chastain’s Mya exudes the confidence and determination we all wish we had in making a decision that will change the world. Zero Dark Thirty is a career changing role for Chastain who will have her pick of coveted roles from here on out in her career. Overall I give Zero Dark Thirty 3 1/2 Potatoes.

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