11/26/2012 11:26 am ET Updated Jan 26, 2013

Girls' Night Out: Zero Dark Thirty and the Death of Osama bin Laden

Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal's take on the hunt for Osama bin Laden, a thrilling Zero Dark Thirty, begins with torture so brutal I found it an eye averting experience. But not CIA operative Maya (the delicate, fine-boned, redhead Jessica Chastain) on assignment, recruited after high school to work on the war on terrorism. "She's a killer," or "The Girl," as identified by CIA higher ups and we see her refusing to leave the room as "Amar" is water boarded, her pale eyes wide.

We know much about the heroism of the Navy SEALs who invaded the fort-like compound in Pakistan, bin Laden's lair, but not so much about the masterminding, the intel involved in that feat. In this riveting drama, Maya is the through-line for an excellent cast including Mark Strong, James Gandolfini, Joel Edgerton, and Jennifer Ehle, like Chastain, a fragile beauty. Although often seen in supporting roles, here Ehle is a CIA co-worker, a foil for the clear-headed Maya who grows into her job. The casting is part of the brilliance of this movie, a sure nomination for Best Picture Oscar.
The taking of bin Laden is The Girl's risk. Maya sticks with a hunch that becomes a certainty, following leads to a particular messenger, even as other intel rules him out. The third male in the Abbottabad compound might even be a drug dealer, not worth the time or talent. Chastain makes several impassioned speeches, a trademark of an Oscar-w.

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