Director Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to her Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker is generating buzz nearly two weeks before its December 19 release—and for good reason. I caught an advance screening and can report that it’s a monumental film, even if its grim-but-true story about the hunt for Osama bin Laden isn’t exactly light fare for the Yuletide. Herein, five reasons why it’s worth seeing ASAP:
1. It’s the best movie of 2012: And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Zero Dark Thirty has already earned “Best Picture” accolades from The National Board of Review and New York Film Critics Circle, thereby raising its profile as the Oscar race begins. If you care about awards, this one’s a must-see.
2. It’s a big film about something “real”: Studios released some great documentaries in 2012, but even the best of the best lack the scope of Bigelow’s military drama. Americans have endured over 10 years of the War on Terror, and Zero Dark Thirty is a brutally honest portrayal of its greatest costs and triumphs.
3. It out-actions Bond and Batman: For the most part, the violence in Zero Dark Thirty is pointed, unsettling and anything but gratuitous. But the final sequence, depicting the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, is easily the most gripping piece of action-suspense filmmaking I’ve seen this year. And I caught The Dark Knight Rises three times. In IMAX.
4. It’s a thinker: Zero Dark Thirty doesn’t take any obvious political stances, instead offering an even-handed portrayal of true events. That said, many of those events are difficult to watch and likely to rile debate once the credits roll.
5. Jessica Chastain: Her performance is amazing, period. She earned an Academy Award nomination for The Help last year, and I’d expect a big win for her in 2012.
One last note: The R-rated Zero Dark Thirty contains scenes of harsh violence that some viewers will find disturbing—which, in fairness, is part of the point. Make sure to read up on its content if you’re concerned.