Scott Marks 9 p.m., July 24
Zero Dark Thirty
Spoiler alert: it ends with the bad guy getting killed. More hurt from Kathryn Bigelow in this docudrama (read: hand-held) account of the hunt for Usama Bin Laden. From its conception to execution, the American government’s “Yippee ki yay!” murder of Bin Laden had Hollywood blockbuster written all over it. For its first 30 minutes, Zero Dark Thirty plays like torture porn; Jigsaw waterboards Jihadists in Saw VIII. Jessica Chastain stars as Maya, a prototypical Bigelow heroine, initially reserved but quick to grow an icy set of balls when needed to cut it in a man’s world. She is a “Hawksian” professional of the highest order: the real-life person upon whom the character is based spent 12 years — her entire career with the CIA — doggedly pursuing the mission at hand. The Agency accuses the film of taking “significant artistic license, while portraying itself as being historically accurate” in its depiction of the government-sanctioned waterboarding of a messenger as a means of obtaining the vital clue needed to pinpoint the exact location of Bin Laden. Is Bigelow juggling the facts or exposing truths many hold to be self-evident? When it comes to establishing and maintaining tension, there wasn’t a better American genre picture released this year. Refrain from viewing it as historical record and you won’t leave disappointed. 2012.