#2: Zero Dark Thirty
Since this movie hasn't yet opened in wide release, I'm going to avoid spoilers. But even avoiding specifics, there are so many things to admire in Kathryn Bigelow's follow-up to The Hurt Locker. There's the sprawling and fantastic cast that boasts Jessica Chastain, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Ehle, Jason Clark, Chris Pratt and Joel Edgerton. There's the deft editing that makes a film that clocks in at over 2 ½ hours feel riveting and fast-paced. But what's most remarkable about Bigelow's drama about American forces' hunt for Osama bin Laden is its restraint and rejection of sensationalism. This is no rah-rah nationalistic tale of American power and pride, nor is it a damning criticism of the CIA's methods to extract information from terrorists and their accomplices. Instead Zero Dark Thirty offers a complicated portrait of a CIA agent (Chastain) who relentlessly seeks the man responsible for 9/11 without getting caught up in anguish, rage, or revenge. The film lays out the good and the bad of these events, leaving its audience to draw their own conclusions. It's a move that sets Bigelow apart and left me in awe.

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