Zero Dark Thirty is the best film of 2012, by a landslide. It is a well-paced, directed, acted, written, scored... well, its great at everything it does. It nearly pushes 3 hours, but it never bores for a minute.
The film starts with 9/11 phone calls. Then, the film starts with a torture scene. It's a little shocking, but it is somehow hard to look away. The man doing the torture is Dan, played perfectly by up-and comer Jason Clarke. The victim is Ammar, a suspicious courier of Al-Queda, and potentially of Bin Laden. The film's star takes off her ski mask after leaving the compound. This is Maya, a CIA agent who has been recruited right out of high school. She speaks in a higher-pitched voice, and looks away when Ammar gets waterboarded.
Chastain is a marvel in the film. Within the first 10 minutes, we see a introverted woman who would rather sit at her desk watching surveillance tapes. The film moves ahead 5 years within the first 40 minutes, and we still see the same higher-pitched woman. She is much more demeaning and powerful. In an interview with another Al-Queda courier, she uses words to belittle the man. It's a great part, and Maya occupies about 2¼ hours of the film.
The great performance should take a good amount of credit from Mark Boal, the screenwriter of The Hurt Locker. The dialogue sounds realistic, and sometimes it is quite witty. The dialogue can probably help with the entertainment of the film.
What elevates this film from good to great is the direction Bigelow takes with the film. No shot is too long or too short, and nothing seems rushed and too slow. She really shows her talent in the final raid of Bin Laden's compound, when she mainly employs the use of night vision goggles and silences to add to the suspense.
Zero Dark Thirty is an impeccably well-made film, and a masterpiece for the ages.