Zero Dark Thirty

15 Certificate, 157 minutes. ★★★★★★★★★★

Katheryn Bigelo’s controversial film about the ten year hunt for Osama Bin Laden stars Jessica Chastain as the Maya, unrelenting CIA agent who doggedly follows cold trail after cold trail to find the terrorist leader.

We’re all familiar with Seal Team Six and the raid/invasion in Pakistan that finally got Bin Laden – or at least we think we are – and this movie takes us behind the scenes in a part-fictionalised account of the hunt and the tragedies that led to it.

The film opens with a harrowing audio-only representation of 9/11, using phone calls made from the burning World Trade Centre. It then takes us to the Black Ops site at GITMO (Guantanamo Bay) where we see prisoners being tortured for information. It’s here we meet CIA operative Maya, on her first assignment, and we follow her to Pakistan where she starts tracking down Bin Laden’s elusive courier. The film culminates in an exacting and gripping recreation of the Seal raid on Bin Laden’s compound, with Bigelo’s characteristic hard-hitting style, which works all the better for the long procedural build-up. I won’t – I can’t spoil the ending, because, let’s face it, we all know.

Jessica Chastain absolutely carries the film, and we are utterly convinced by her fervent – revolutionary, almost – unsentimental determination. She’s backed up by an excellent supporting cast, including cameos by James Galdolfini and John Barrowman.

At the end of almost three hours (and ten years), Maya finds herself alone in the back of a C130, it’s all been done. The pilot asks her, “Where do you wanna go?” The camera lingers on her face… she has no answer, fade to black.