ZERO DARK THIRTY
As an orchestrator of cinematic suspense, Kathryn Bigelow might currently be without peer in American movies. The sequences of Jeremy Renner dismantling explosives in the director's Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker were miniature masterpieces of sustained excitement; despite our knowing, through much of the film, that it was too early for Renner's Sergeant William James to be killed off, each masterfully shot and edited act of bomb disposal vibrated with legitimate threat. In Zero Dark Thirty - Bigelow's and screenwriter Mark Boal's fictionalized docu-drama about the decade-long search for Osama bin Laden - nearly every scene feels like a ticking time bomb. There is, of course, never any doubt about the narrative's outcome, yet Bigelow's gifts for composition and pacing ensure that you still watch the picture with rapt attention and dread. And blessedly, she's also a spectacular entertainer. The movie is tough-minded and sometimes tough to watch, but even when Bigelow is fraying your nerves, she's tickling your senses.