Posts Tagged ‘Chris Pratt’

Origin of Several Species

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Director: J. A. Bayona

Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Rafe Spall, Jeff Goldblum, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Geraldine Chaplin, Ted Levine, BD Wong, Isabella Sermon, Justice Smith

Spanish director J. A. Bayona brings an impressive sense of Gothic Horror to the sequel to 2015’s Jurassic World, in the his latest film Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom which is both riveting and tantalizingly watchable without reverting completely into blockbuster CGI overload. Although that said, the volcanic sequence on Isla Nuba off the coast of Costa Rica is brilliantly staged.

Familiar cast members return including Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dering who teams up with macho dinosaur wrangler Owen Grady wonderfully played by Chris Pratt whose phenomenal career path as rocketed since his casting as Peter Quill aka Star-Lord in Marvel’s The Guardians of the Galaxy.

Rafe Spall (Life of Pi) plays the villainous Eli Mills assistant to the immensely wealthy Benjamin Lockwood, played by James Cromwell (The Queen). Audiences should look out for a stand out performance by Isabella Sermon as Lockwood’s tenacious granddaughter Maisie who has to eventually contend with some monsters in her own childhood bedroom.

Watching over young Maisie is her guardian Iris played by the daughter of silent screen star Charlie Chaplin, Geraldine Chaplin (The Impossible, The Wolfman, The Age of Innocence) whom it is so refreshing to see on the big screen again.

As the dinosaurs of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom are consequently rescued just as the volcano at Isla Nuba threatens to make these ancient creatures extinct, a new threat develops on the massive Lockwood country estate in Northern California whereby director J. A. Bayona skillfully uses all the traits of Gothic Horror to add a fascinating twist to a blockbuster sequel with enough suspense to keep audiences entertained while also emphasizing the perennial issue of endangered species, something which endangered wildlife are constantly at risk of becoming in the increasingly technological 21st century.

Audiences that enjoyed the 2015 Jurassic World, will undoubtedly love this authentic and imaginative sequel.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and recommended for audiences that harbour an abiding fascination for dinosaurs.

 

Thanos’s Deadly Compromise

Avengers: Infinity War

Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Peter Dinklage, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro, William Hurt, Letitia Wright, Pom Klementieff, Carrie Coon, Winston Duke

Following the phenomenal success of Thor: Ragnorak and Black Panther, Marvel has capitalized on its extended cinematic universe with the new Avengers: Infinity War featuring a plethora of superheroes from Spiderman to Ironman, from Captain America to The Hulk not to mention bringing in the Guardians of the Galaxy gang for additional support.

If Avengers: Infinity War feels a bit excessive, that’s because it probably is combining the Avengers franchise with that of the more quirky Guardians of the Galaxy. Some fantastic moments occur when Spiderman played by Tom Holland meets Peter Quill aka StarLord played by Chris Pratt or when Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr disagrees with the wizard Doctor Strange played by Benedict Cumberbatch. The snappy dialogue is sometimes lost amidst the greater quest to fight the evil universe destroyer Thanos played by Josh Brolin.

Thanos is equally conflicted about having to gather all the infinity stones including the one for Souls in which he has to make a choice between himself and his adopted daughter Gamora played by Zoe Saldana. In the meantime, his evil minions are wreaking havoc on earth in New York and in the magical technologically advanced African kingdom of Wakanda where Vision played by Paul Bettany along with Captain America  and Scarlett Witch played by Elizabeth Olsen seek the assistance of Black Panther played by Chadwick Boseman.

Audiences have to suspend their disbelief but judging by how packed the cinemas are for Avengers Infinity War, they are quite happy to do so. This film is pure sci-fi fantasy with little of the action taking place on earth. Most of the fight sequences occur on outer galactic planets like Titan.

Thor needs his hammer back and seeks the help of Eitri played by Peter Dinklage who forges a brilliant new weapon out of a powerful star, the celestial capability of which was last seen on the forgotten kingdom of Asgard.

Whilst directing brothers Anthony and Joe Russo compile an absolute Geekfest with Avengers: Infinity War with enough alien creatures and superheroes to stockpile Comicon for the next decade, it’s a clear sign that the Marvel Universe has ambitious plans to expand even further.

That said Avengers: Infinity War has a convoluted story line weighed down by too many subplots but if viewers see it as a precursor to a second film then they will not find the surprise ending so disruptive….

Avengers: Infinity War gets a film rating 7.5 out of 10 and is strictly for Marvel comic book fans who have followed all the films from the original Iron Man 10 years ago.

The visual effects are fantastic as will be the box office receipts. See it to believe it.

 

 

Starlord’s Genealogy

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Director: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Sylvester Stallone, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Sean Gunn

Director James Gunn’s second foray into the Guardians universe is not as brilliant as his original film, mainly because the quirkiness of the characters of the first Guardians of the Galaxy has worn off slightly. If viewers enjoy psychedelic action with lots of CGI then Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 is for you.

All the original cast reprise their roles with a bigger screen time for Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana who both have familial issues to contend with. Pratt’s character Peter “Star Lord” Quill has to contend with unresolved father issues when he meets his dad aptly named Ego charismatically played by Kurt Russell who is definitely having a rejuvenation in his career. While Zoe Saldana’s Gamora has to contend with sibling rivalry with the unexpected arrival of her sister Nebula played by Karen Gillan.

Dave Bautista’s Drax seems to be more contented and has the best lines in the film. While Bradley Cooper who provides the voice of Rocket and Vin Diesel who does the voice of Baby Groot really just had to the star power.

The best scenes in the film are between Kurt Russell and Chris Pratt as Starlord discovers that his biological father is a slight megalomaniac with unresolved desire to consume the universe. Spoiler Alert there!

Sylvester Stallone pops up briefly as Stakar Ogord and unfortunately has too little screen time to give his character any credibility. Chameleon actress Elizabeth Debicki who was so brilliantly in the series The Night Manager and was seen in Macbeth and The Great Gatsby also unfortunately has too little screen time to really give her golden genetically enhanced character Ayesha – Ruler of the Sovereign race any menace although she does look absolutely gorgeous in all that gold.

Elizabeth Debicki should use her remarkable talents as an actress in a far better genre than psychedelic sci-fi  but then again Marvel are calling the shots. Marvel are certainly luring talented stars to play in their films. Just look at the cast of Doctor Strange.

Unlike Doctor Strange which was really well done with awesome special effects, James Gunn’s Guardians 2 with the tag line “Obviously” seems to much of the same and nothing remotely original. Strip away all the CGI and the plot is basically a father and son story about a son who slowly becomes disillusioned with the image of what his father should be, never mind the fatal legacy that Ego has install for Starlord and the rest of the gang.

Fans of the Guardians of the Galaxy will certainly enjoy this hasty sequel but lets face it this version is never as innovative as the original film. Now what remains to be seen is how the Guardians will fare in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity movie scheduled for a 2018 release featuring a combination of all the Avengers, plus Spiderman and the Guardians – Should be fun.

Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 is a fantastic fun-filled popcorn film but nothing more. Viewers will be dazzled by fantastic CGI that the whole universe will be dripping with neon.  Although, the Guardians films are enjoyable they are not in the league of Star Wars but then again my loyalties lie elsewhere.

Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 gets a rating of 6.5 out of 10 but is strictly for the fans of the first film. Its quirky, fun, but nothing spectacular despite the presence of Kurt Russell and Elizabeth Debicki both of whom add gravitas to an otherwise skimpy plot line. On the plus side – the music is fantastic and Baby Groot is really cute!

Discovering Aurora

Passengers

Director: Morten Tyldum

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Andy Garcia

It’s hard to believe that after the success of the Oscar nominated biographical film about Alan Turing, The Imitation Game, that Norwegian director Morten Tyldum would follow up with a sci-fi metaphorical film Passengers which doesn’t quite elevate to a meaningful story despite its sexy wholesome stars.

Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) and Hollywood’s new kid on the block, Chris Pratt (Jurassic World, The Magnificent Seven) are basically the only two actors in Passengers which focuses on a luxurious space craft heading to a distant colony for space colonization only for the couple to awaken 90 years before their projected arrival at the planet aptly named Homestead.

Pratt who was so humorous in Guardians in the Galaxy, battles to keep a straight face as the mechanic from Colorado Jim Preston who realizes that himself and Aurora Lane, wonderfully played by a gorgeous Blonde Jennifer Lawrence are awake in a vast rotating space cruiser with only a smartly dressed android for company, the eloquent Arthur superbly played by Michael Sheen (The Queen, Midnight in Paris).

What saves Passengers from utter tedium is the brilliant visual effects and pristine cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto along with sleek production design by Guy Hendrix-Dyas who worked on such films as Alejandro Amenabar’s Agora and Christopher Nolan’s visually astounding film Inception.

The best scene in the film is when the space ship suddenly loses gravity and catches Aurora stuck inside a water bubble while she is swimming in an infinity pool which overlooks the infinite galaxy.

Jennifer Lawrence looks suitably panic stricken throughout Passengers mainly because she is so used to working with other actors in ensemble films like American Hustle and Joy. In Passengers, all she has to work with is Pratt who doesn’t yet have the gravitas to pull off a major role on his own with one other actor.

Passengers is gorgeous to look at but the narrative centre of the film does not hold and one would have hoped for a more fascinating turn of events than a spaceship breaking down. Let’s face it that has been done before with more sinister effects. Oscar Nominee Laurence Fishburne plays Gus Mancuso who has such a small part along with Andy Garcia who only briefly appears at the end of the film, without uttering a word.

Unlike Alfonso Cuaron’s brilliant Oscar winning film Gravity, Passengers does not really get off the ground emotionally and whilst any film with only two actors in it is really difficult to pull off, it is even more so when the storyline is so lacklustre. At least Gravity had riveting visual effects and superb acting from both George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.

Passengers needed a far more effective twist to elevate the narrative out of a 21st century metaphorical tale about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. One thing is for sure, director Tyldum does make a valid point that humans should not entirely place all their trust in machines. Just look what happened in Terminator. Viewers should judge for themselves.

 

2016 Toronto Film Festival

2016 Toronto International

Film Festival Winners

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Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) takes place every year in September in Toronto, Canada.

Films which premiere at Toronto are often nominated for Academy Awards the following year.

TIFF does not hand out individual prizes for Best Actor or Actress but focuses on amongst others the following awards:
People’s Choice Award & Best Canadian Feature Film

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Opening Night Film: The Magnificent Seven directed by Antoine Fuqua starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke

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People’s Choice Award: La La Land directed by Damien Chazelle – starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Finn Wittrock, J. K. Simmons & Rosemarie DeWitt

Best Canadian Film: Those who make Revolution only Dig their Graves Halfway directed by Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie

 

Reclaiming the West

The Magnificent Seven

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Director:  Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Luke Grimes, Matt Bomer, Martin Sensmeier, Cam Gigandet

Antoine Fuqua gathers his favourite actors into his latest impressive film.

In Fuqua’s bespoke remake of John Sturgeon’s 1960 classic film The Magnificent Seven, as an African American film director he reclaims the Western genre in a bold step towards reimagining American Western mythology which will surely shape how cinema goers view the Western film genre.

Gone are the days of Western films primarily being made up of morally dubious cowboys mostly played by dashing European actors fighting savage Red Indians or each other in high noon stand offs.

Director Fuqua’s superb The Magnificent Seven is as diverse as Westerns come, showing that while perceptions of the American West have largely been Eurocentric, the real history of the American West was far more complex.

The setting is Rose Creek, California in 1879. A small dusty town a three day ride away from the Californian state capital Sacramento, at the height of the Gold Rush.

Rose Creek is being tormented by a malicious industrialist Bartholomew Bogue wonderfully played against type by character actor Peter Sarsgaard (Blue Jasmine), who not only burns down the moral centre of the town, the church, but casually kills some its town folk, much to the horror of the remaining witnesses.

Rose Creek’s town representative, a feisty widow Emma Cullen, played by rising star Haley Bennett enlists the help of sharp shooter Chisolm, expertly played by Oscar winner Denzel Washington (Training Day, Glory).

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Chisolm gathers a motley crew of cowboys and one red Indian, consisting of the heavy drinking Irishman Josh Faraday, comically played by Chris Pratt, sharp shooter Goodnight Robicheaux played by Ethan Hawke (Training Day, Before Sunrise), lonesome tracker Jack Horne played by Vincent D’Onofrio, Billy Rocks played by Korean star Byung-hun Lee, Vasquez, played by rising Mexican star Manual Garcia-Rulfo last seen in Cake opposite Jennifer Aniston and finally Native American actor Martin Sensmeier who plays Comanche Indian Red Harvest.

With the gang in tow and the town folk galvanized for action, audiences should expect the final gun battle of Rose creek to be thrilling. Fortunately this is where The Magnificent Seven delivers as the final act of the film is truly brilliant, with superb sound editing and haunting production design, Fuqua pays homage to the original version and to the genre as a whole while deftly reimagining Westerns as a more diverse and multi-cultural affair.

Not since the Coen brothers reworking of the Oscar nominated True Grit, have I enjoyed a Western as much. The Magnificent Seven does justice to its genre assisted by superb performances by Washington and Sarsgaard as opponents with a vicious score to settle.

Audiences that enjoyed James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers True Grit, will love Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven as he reclaims the Western genre and hopefully opens the doors for this much loved film genre to be bravely re-explored in the 21st century. This is a genre which desperately needs a Hollywood resurgence.

Now if only a director could tackle a film version of Cormac McCarthy’s brutal tale of the Mexican frontier wars in his gripping Western novel, Blood Meridian, then that would be a film worth seeing.

Ascending The Food Chain

Jurassic World

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Director: Colin Trevorrow

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Omar Sy, Jake Johnson, Vincent D’Onofrio, B. D. Wong, Judy Greer

After the phenomenal success of the Jurassic Park trilogy, Hollywood was bound to make a sequel and Jurassic World lives up to all expectations, smashing all box office records in its opening weekend. Let’s face it, Dinosaurs sell!

Rising star Chris Pratt who was so brilliant as the comic hero in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy plays Raptor Animal trainer Owen while Bryce Dallas Howard (Terminator: Salvation) plays Jurassic World’s sophisticated and slick Vice-President Claire who is so into the selling points of the magnificent Jurassic World, a mega-theme park in Costa Rica, that she forgets about the imminent dangers of genetically reproducing more dangerous dinosaurs.

Not to mention that Claire has been given the task of looking after her nephews, Zach and Gray wonderfully played by Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins who are eventually caught up in the mayhem of Jurassic World after their gyrosphere ride goes haywire. The brothers, Zach and Gray firmly place Jurassic World’s target audience as males between the ages of 10 and 16, but the film is so visually spectacular that anyone would find Jurassic World irresistible in terms of special effects.

Audiences that enjoyed the original trilogy should definitely make an effort to see Jurassic World as besides the quirky onscreen chemistry between Pratt (who modelled his character on another Steven Spielberg creation, Indiana Jones) and the hapless Bryce Dallas Howard whose efficiency does not prevent an aggressive genetically modified dinosaur to escape captivity and wreak havoc in the theme park.

Slumdog Millionaire’s Irrfan Khan plays the reckless billionaire Masrani, new owner of Jurassic World while Vincent D’Onofrio (The Cell, Thumbsucker) plays a gung-ho military veteran Hoskins who only sees the dinosaurs as potential killing machines for combat warfare.

As the potential threat to Jurassic World, viciously ascends the food chain, the moral of the narrative soon becomes clear: never mess with what you cannot control and in scientific terms an extinction event occurs of mammoth proportions which involves humans and dinosaurs.

Jurassic World has stunning visual effects, a relatable storyline and loads of action. Highly recommended viewing and as blockbusters go, extremely entertaining thanks to a wonderful onscreen chemistry between Pratt and Howard.

 

 

Gamora and the Infinity Stones

Guardians of the Galaxy

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Director: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Michael Rooker, Glenn Close, Djimon Hounsou, Benicio del Toro, Lee Pace, Brad Cooper, Dave Bautista, John C. Reilly

Marvel’s sci fi action adventure Guardians of the Galaxy is like Star Wars on acid with an exceptionally cool soundtrack, featuring some 70’s and 80’s classics. Part comedy, part adventure, director James Gunn successfully mixes comic adventure with intergalactic chaos and mischief.

Featuring a suitably toned down Chris Pratt (Zero Dark Thirty) superbly cast as rebel Starlord, Peter Quinn who while rummaging on an abandoned planet discovers a mysterious orb which soon elicits a whole bunch of ragtag and riotious characters from all corners of the Galaxy as they race to claim the orb for themselves. The Guardians of the Galaxy featuring the amiable and funny Peter Quinn with some serious mommy issues, along with green skinned Gamora, played by Avatar star Zoe Saldana along with a talking racoon (yes you read that right) voiced by Bradley Cooper and a walking tree, with a severely limited vocabulary, voiced by Vin Diesel.

Guardians of the Galaxy is psychedelic sci-fi and not visionary like Elysium or Blade Runner, making no attempts to conceal its main target audience – teenage boys who have followed the comic book series of the same name. The film even retains a comic book feel and with some exceptionally interesting visual effects, Guardians certainly does make use of its 3D appeal.

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This is like Star Wars on LSD for a younger generation, but hugely enjoyable, thanks to the casting of comic actor Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldanha as Gamora, who are both after the powerful and illustrious infinity stones, which they soon hand over to the Collector, a wonderful cameo by Benicio del Toro, who was also seen in the closing credits of Thor: The Dark World.

Veteran actress Glenn Close (101 Dalmations) makes a camped up appearance as Prime Nova, a cipher of her Cruella de Ville character along with John C. Reilly and Djimon Hounsou of Blood Diamond fame.

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Lee Pace plays the evil Ronan who with his extraordinary makeup and pharaoh like costume is hellbent on destroying the Universe along with his adopted daughter Nebula played by Karen Gillian. Naturally the ragtag bunch of Guardians band together and fight the onslaught of the Kree against the fabulous planet Xander, which looks like Dubai on steroids.

Guardians of the Galaxy must have been a massive hit at San Diego’s Comicon and it’s not difficult to see why, humour mixed with romance, good versus evil all enveloped in a wildly over the top action adventure which makes the first Star Wars positively tame. Except that Star Wars was a classic and this sci-fi is not aiming to be anything more than merely fun and amusing much like the comics the story is based on. Marvel definitely got the concept right.

Recommended viewing for geek freaks and not to serious sci-fi fans, making Guardians definitely fall into the frivolous popcorn fodder category. Hugely enjoyable, with lots of implied moral messages, but this film does not aspire to be Alphonso Cuaron’s Gravity, this is Guardians of the Galaxy featuring Gamora and the infinity stones! Besides who can take this film seriously when there is a talking racoon and a tree in it?

 

Timeline of Terror

Zero Dark Thirty

Superb Tradecraft

Superb Tradecraft

Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s brilliant yet riveting film Zero Dark Thirty is a masterful film, held together by a central performance by Jessica Chastain as CIA Intelligence Operative Maya and a superb script by Mark Boal, who also collaborated with Bigelow on the equally impressive The Hurt Locker.

This complex film opens with the flight recordings of the United 93 plane that crashed in Pennsylvania during the September 2001 US Terror attacks sparking an obsessive and frustrating hunt for the Al Qaeda mastermind Osama Bin Laden by the CIA and specifically Maya initially from the hostile environment of Pakistan then based at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. The narrative charts a veritable timeline of terror that has characterized the first decade of the 21st century, from 9/11 to the London Transport bombings in July 2005, to the Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad in September 2008 to the suicide bombing at the American military base, Camp Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan in December 2009.

Zero Dark Thirty is a brilliant spy thriller and unlike Argo, is deadly serious in every respect and is grounded in much historical research and investigative journalism, noted in the detailed script by Mark Boal. As in The Hurt Locker, Bigelow once again casts her central character in a completely hostile and extremely dangerous environment and the petite Maya as the tenacious CIA operative who skilfully leads the hunt for and final execution of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind many international terrorist attacks, most notably 9/11 and the 2005 London bombings.

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Bigelow as a director takes on a larger canvas than in the Iraq War in The Hurt Locker and shows that the decade long hunt for America’s most wanted enemy was an international affair from Pakistan to Poland to Kuwait involving CIA black sites, detailed surveillance and lots of political wrangling.

Tradecraft

A notable narrative shift is from the film’s first half set under the Bush administration where torture, rendition and revenge were the CIA’s chief instruments of capturing Al Qaeda terrorists to the second half set after November 2008 under the Obama administration where detailed surveillance, dedication and  almost positive certainty of terrorist tradecraft which ultimately lead to the riveting  elimination of Osama Bin Laden at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011, Zero Dark Thirty is deadpan in its presentation of one nations hunt for a master terrorist and the extraordinary sacrifice and lengths these CIA operatives went to in finally achieving their goal.

Jessica Chastain performance is simply superb and has already garnered a 2013 Golden Globe Award and truly shows her talent and diversity in the role of Maya but also points to Kathryn Bigelow ability  to bring out the best performance ever in her leading actors, as was the case with Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker. The final sequence involving the storming of the Abbottabad compound, believed to be Bin Ladin’s hideout by elite American soldiers is truly nerve-wracking cinema, shot with Bigelow’s trademark directorial detachment cut through with absolute documentary styled realism.

Zero Dark Thirty has a great supporting cast including Jason Clarke as the CIA torturer Dan, Kyle Chandler as CIA Pakistan operations chief Joseph Bradley along with Mark Strong, Jennifer Ehle and James Gandolfini, but it is really Chastain’s obsessive portrayal of CIA Operative Maya, a woman battling to gain respect in a male dominated espionage arena, that shows her true talent. The pace of Zero Dark Thirty is fast and yet measured enough to show the time involved assisted by an original score by Alexandre Desplat and with cutting edge sound editing, the audience is immediately immersed in a deeply fascinating portrait of America’s covert hunt for that nation’s Enemy Number One. Highly Recommended and definitely Oscar worthy.

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