Film Of The Month: Zero Dark Thirty ★★★★★

In the midst of the Oscar madness, the film and month of the week honours go this week to the most controversial among this year’s crop of nominees, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’. Kathryn Bigelow has scooped five nominations for the Academy awards and another five for the Robers with this dense and gripping account of a passage of recent story that’s still on everybody’s mind, the search and killing of Osama Bin Laden.

Bigelow’s follows-up her Oscar winner ‘The Hurt Locker’ with what could easily be regarded as its twin companion. It maintains the same directorial style, unadorned but slick cinematography and a focus on the storytelling thanks to a brilliant screenplay written by her regular collaborator Mark Boal. ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ inherits all the merits of its predecessor and takes them to new highs, adding a far more rapid pace; thorough research and the bonus interest of delving into those still little known era defining events.

Jessica Chastain, a strong Oscar contender herself, is the determined agent who monitors the search. Her role gives us even a bigger reason to find out why she is the most in demand actress in the world Today and heads an equally superb cast boasting fine performances by Mark Strong; Mark Duplass; James Gandolfini; Joel Edgerton; Jennifer Ehle; Jason Clarke and Hollywood’s actor of choice for 70’s CIA roles Kyle Chandler (recently seen on a very similar role in the also ubernominated ‘Argo’).

Named after the army slang expression to describe the time where the place Osama was hiding was meant to be attacked, the film begins in the post 9/11 times and describes the search among the infamous terrorists’ circles for a connection that may lead to his location; filmed in several US military bases around the world, mainly in Pakistan, and going through events that have shocked the world since that major attack, depicted with aseptic realism, including the much condemned scenes of torture, shown in all its graphic horror, that have prompted a wave of rather misguided and opportunistic criticism accusing the film of condoning the use of those methods. If anything, it totally makes you reaffirm on your belief against them.

Malicious controversies aside, this is a fascinating piece of cinema. The depiction of the current ways of American Intelligence gives it a similar feeling to TV’s mos succesful series of the moment, ‘Homeland,’ but without the 24-esque” TV trickery, nor the script twist and pyrotechnics.

Equally impressive but not as accomplished, Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’★★★★ is ahead of Zero Dark Thirty in the Oscar race with a total 11 nominations. It has been hailed as Spielberg’s best film for two decades and it’s a monumental effort that also thoroughly researches another key time in American history, the passing of the 13th amendment to the US constitution, which finally abolished slavery. Beautifully photographed by Janusz Kaminski and with a plot that focuses in the politics and compromises needed during the four weeks prior to the voting in the parliament, in the middle of the civil war.

Lincoln also counts with a superb cast that’s not always taken advantage of, most of the characters lacking enough depth (Joseph-Gordon Levitt, James Spade or John Hawkes’ roles among them). However it also means the recovery for the big screen of two time Academy winner Sally Field; a new nomination for Tommy Lee Jones another nomination and the extraordinary impersonation of the most beloved US president of all times made by Daniel Day Lewis. ‘Lincoln’ is his show. The intricacy of its screenplay makes it sometimes necessary to know about American history and the parliament procedures are not always as thrilling as they should have been, for all of which a second viewing helps. But ultimately this is Spielberg at his most satisfying and monumental epic mode.

Other new releases this week included the star-studded ‘Movie 43’ in which a constellation of stars provides vignettes of toilet humour and the return of Arnie after his political hiatus as governor of California in ‘The Last Stand’. Reviews for both of them were quite off-putting, so we gave them a miss.

And last, but not least, we resume our list of recommended films, including all the releases that have arrived to our screens since the beginning of the festive season until the end of January. Our Top 21 recommended films of the month are:

Kathryn Bigelow (NEW)
Quentin Tarantino
Lenny Abrahmson
Amy Berg
5-LIFE OF PI ★★★
Ang Lee
6-LINCOLN ★★★★
Steven Spielberg (NEW)
Michael Winterbottom
Bruno Dumont (NEW)
Ben Lewin
Juan Antonio Bayona

Colin Trevorrow
David Gelb (NEW)
Jeff Orlowski
14-BOXING DAY ★★★½
Bernard Rose (NEW)
15-QUARTET ★★★
Dustin Hoffman
Ruben Fleischer (NEW)
Martin McDonagh (NEW)
Jason Moore (NEW)
Tom Hooper (NEW)
Jen & Sylvia Soska
Peter Jackson (NEW)

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