Zero Dark Thirty, Jessica Chastain

A big-screen treatment of one of the greatest manhunts in American history is getting a big thumbs-up.

E! News rounds up the early reviews for Kathryn Bigelow's highly anticipated action thriller, Zero Dark Thirty, which chronicles the heroism of a female CIA agent named Maya (Jessica Chastain), who spent over a decade tracking Osama bin Laden after 9/11, and the Navy SEALs team that brought the terrorist mastermind to justice.

Of course, while we all know the ending, it's all about the journey. So what do the critics think? Read on!

• "Essentially, it's a police procedural on the grand scale," writes Time's Richard Corliss. "First and last, Zero Dark Thirty is a movie, and a damned fine one. Like Argo—which, with all due respect to director Ben Affleck and the film's many admirers, ZDT blows out of the water—it dramatizes a true-life international adventure with CIA agents as the heroes…This is movie journalism that snaps and stings, that purifies a decade's clamor and clutter into narrative clarity, with a salutary kick."

• "Far more ambitious than [Bigelow's] The Hurt Locker, yet nowhere near so tripwire-tense, this procedure-driven, decade-spanning docudrama nevertheless rivets for most of its running time by focusing on how one female CIA agent with a far-out hunch was instrumental in bringing down America's most wanted fugitive," opines Variety's Peter Debruge.

• "It could well be the most impressive film Bigelow has made, as well as possibly her most personal, as one keenly feels the drive of the filmmaker channeled through the intensity of Maya's character," raves Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter. "The film's power steadily and relentlessly builds over its long course, to a point that is terrifically imposing and unshakable."

• "[ZDT] should do well with critics and Academy voters alike, but those expecting a simplistic, slam-bang action movie may be turned off by the thoughtful build-up…But in a season when expert adult dramas like Argo and Lincoln have found box office success, Zero Dark Thirty could become a sleeper hit," states Tim Grierson of Screen Daily.

• "Seeing this film play it so real…is an unexpected pleasure," praises Drew McWeeny of Hit Fix. "It also occurs to me that there's something great about seeing the international face of Muslim extremism taken down by the efforts of a thoroughly modern Western woman, a clear case of ideological symbolism played in a way that makes it feel authentic. I don't know if there's a real-life Maya, but Chastain inhabits this woman fully."

Zero Dark Thirty hits theaters in limited release on Dec. 19 before expanding nationwide on Jan. 11, 2013.

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