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Kathryn Bigelow follows up her Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker, with the story of hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Starring Jessica Chastain, Kyle Chandler, and Joel Edgerton, this hauntingly realistic film is a hardcore look at the post-911 hunt by the US.

I was a giant fan of The Hurt Locker. When I first saw it I was blown away with the insane realism as well as the constant intensity that follows the main characters throughout the story. What kind of hindered that film was the B stories that the script tried to interject but didn’t work. Also outside of Jeremy Renner’s character, no one really could steal the show even though Anthony Mackie was good. This problem persists in Zero Dark Thirty as Chastain steals the show and no one else can touch how great she is.

That doesn’t sound like a real problem because like I said, The Hurt Locker had that same problem and was still great but Zero Dark Thirty is different in one way, it isn’t out in battle like the previous Bigelow film, it takes place behind the curtain. So this makes it relate to one of my favorite films of 2012, Argo.

What I found better in Argo over Zero Dark Thirty starts with the fact that the cast as a whole does a great job, whether it is Bryan Cranston at the CIA or Alan Arkin in Hollywood and even Ben Affleck in Iran the cast is superb and could take a scene away from the leader at any point. Zero Dark Thirty never did that. Nobody was capable of stealing the light from Chastain and like I said that isn’t necessarily a bad thing but in Argo it added just a little more depth which lacked in Zero Dark Thirty.

Now on the subject of Chastain let me say that it was the best performance by a female that I have seen all year. It is reminiscent to Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln because whenever she is on screen she is commanding the scene and grabbing your attention. The first time I saw her was in Tree of Life and since then I know she has been in such hits as The Help and Lawless but I feel like Tree of Life was still on another level to her more commercial hits.

Zero Dark Thirty just knocked every other performances out of the water and I hope gets Chastain all over Hollywood because she is fantastic. She opens the movie in the first scene as almost a vessel for the audience. She is witnessing a torture scene and like the audience is a little uncomfortable with it at first. This is her start but throughout the film she grows more confident and more hungry for justice. Finally in the end, when she check the body, you can almost see that she is almost frightened with what she has done but once she goes outside knows that she has done something beyond great.

The best part of the film is the last 30 minutes. The realism is insane and you are literally put into the final mission to kill Bin Laden. Edgerton and Chris Pratt lead the scene and do great in the short amount of time that they are featured. I really don’t know what else to say about this scene other than the realism. It is one of the best scenes I saw in 2012.

I also want to address the torture controversy. Whatever side you sit on, in my opinion, the film does not promote getting information from torture. Whenever someone gives them information it is not during the torture scene and the torture plays a key component both strengthening Maya (Chastain) and becoming a hurdle later on because of it being taken away from them.

Zero Dark Thirty is just as heart pounding and realistic as The Hurt Locker and carries just as amazing of a performance as its predecessor. Chastain is fantastic and should win the Oscar for Best Actress. While the film hits a few snags and begins to drag, it picks itself back up and takes you on one of the wildest rides you may see this year.

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