12/19/2012 11:33 am ET

'Zero Dark Thirty' And the Problem With Lone Wolf Heroines

It’s a formidable thing to watch a young female CIA investigator bring down the most notorious terrorist in history, as we do in Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s new film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Especially since Maya (played by Jessica Chastain) does so with nary a flash of black lace — even the red manicure she flashes at her first interrogation has gone au naturel by her second. It’s especially thrilling in a season when macho intelligence films crowd multiplex marquees: the ladies of Argo are fearful secretaries, while in Skyfall, 007’s female field colleague takes a desk job. Few challenge Bigelow’s rep as what Dana Stevens at Slate calls “a feminist folk hero,” since she became the first female director to win an Oscar, for the Iraq War thriller The Hurt Locker.

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