Called a dramatization of "history's greatest manhunt for the world's most dangerous man," "Zero Dark Thirty" chronicles America's pursuit of Osama bin Laden leading up to his death at the hands of a Navy SEAL team nearly a decade after 9-11.
America's pursuit is spearheaded by a CIA operative named Maya (Jessica Chastain), who won't let go of the one link to bin Laden, a courier named Abu Ahmed, who she insists, once located, will lead them to the head of al-Qaida.
Initially Maya works side-by-side with CIA interrogation expert Dan (Jason Clarke), who she witnesses using any means necessary to gather intel to stop another attack on America. Torture at a black site, near the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan, reaps rewards as Ahmed's name is disclosed. And once Maya has her "bone," she refuses to give up.
She faces multiple obstacles along the way. Dan, burned out on his role, returns to Washington, D.C. He encourages Maya to join him as his No. 2, but she opts to remain in Pakistan and continue her pursuit of bin Laden. Despite less than enthusiastic support from her bureau chief, she continues her search. Along the way she survives bombings, an assassination attempt and the loss of her CIA comrades searching for a lead to reach bin Laden.
Eventually, the CIA team gets a break and Maya makes a pitch to CIA Chief Leon Panetta (James Gandolfini), suggesting they've located the compound where bin Laden is hiding. She waits more than 100 days for go-ahead, and when she finally gets it, she oversees the SEAL team operation that takes the terrorist down.
Although you know the outcome, Kathryn Bigelow's direction provides the perfect amount of drama and suspense. The viewer experiences Maya's frustration as she runs into road blocks and dead ends before another break puts her back on course.
The sheer exhaustion and emotion of the successful operation culminates in the closing scene as Maya contemplates where she wants to go next.
Controversy over the torture in the film is well deserved only because it is portrayed as a viable information tool.
This is a must-see piece that offers a look at the steps used to track down the orchestrator of the largest single mass murder in American history.