Bigelow’s ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ is well-made, realistic

Finally something solid materializes: a single name. The pace quickens, and despite the government bureaucracy standing in Maya’s way at every turn, the name receives a face, the face a voice on the phone. Then they find him: bin Laden’s courier. It’s not long before SEALs are prepping for a nighttime raid of bin Laden’s compound.

The raid, what America has been waiting to see, plays out in real time, as the SEALs methodically, strategically break inside the walled perimeter and move into bin Laden’s house. Bigelow combines the neon of night vision with low-light nighttime shooting. The spectrum of blues and grays and blacks maximizes the dark of night while obscuring little. Presented without a score, the mission has realistic intensity, complete with a deafening helicopter crash that draws local attention and threatens to end the mission. Seeing the SEALs in action is well worth the two-hour build-up.

Bigelow’s realistic pacing throughout, with the film’s inconspicuous camerawork, lighting and unobtrusive score (by Alexandre Desplat of “The King’s Speech”), lets the movie melt away and the story simply be. It’s a worthy ending to America’s 9/11 story, and a worthy tribute to the men and women who gave us closure.

Darin Miller is a film critic in Washington, D.C.