2012 Certificate: 15


The tortuous - and torturous - trail leading to to the location and assassination of Osama Bin Laden is the subject of The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow's nail-biting thriller. After the World Trade Center attacks, greenhorn CIA officer Maya (Jessica Chastain) is given the job of tracking down the al-Qaeda leader and spends the next ten years obsessed with hunting her quarry. After careful piecing together of intelligence - some obtained dubiously - she tracks him down to a compound in Pakistan... and a hit squad of Navy SEALS are primed to finish the job. Basically a police procedural on a global scale, this a thrillingly accomplished piece of film-making... despite the fact that everyone knows the ending. Won an Oscar for Best Sound.


  • Kathryn Bigelow


  • Jessica Chastain

  • Mark Strong

  • Joel Edgerton

  • Jennifer Ehle

  • James Gandolfini


The world's greatest manhunt ended in a dusty concrete compound in Pakistan almost ten years after the terrorist attacks on New York's World Trade Center.

During that decade the tracking down of al-Qaeda mastermind Osama Bin Laden had become an all-consuming obsession with an American government convinced that his capture would make the world a safer place. It would also be flag-wavingly sweet revenge for a hitherto impotent superpower.

Director Kathryn Bigelow, who won an Oscar for the Iraqi war drama The Hurt Locker, has dramatised the painstaking investigation into the whereabouts of the enigmatic global warlord in this never less than compelling procedural.

It's a docu-drama in its cleanest and most clinical form, resolutely shying away from political or social comment while relating events as she and screenwriter Mark Boal perceived them.

The labyrinthine quest for Bin Laden is seen through the sharp eyes of Maya (Chastain), a fresh-from-school CIA spook despatched to Pakistan where she's uncomfortably introduced to the torture of suspects, specifically by black site interrogator Jason Clarke.

The quality of the intel extracted under duress (waterboarding seems a popular choice) is murky at best, utterly misleading at worst, and it's a chance observation by a sharp-eyed junior analyst that properly puts the CIA on Bin Laden's serpentine trail.

Old-fashioned staking out and belts and braces recon narrows the search down to the anonymous suburban compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan...but it's still not certain if this is the hidey-hole of their man.

Weighing in at well over two hours, this always watchable dissection of the careful piecing together of the trail leading to Bin Laden is kept narratively on the boil by sudden dramatic curveballs - Maya and her buddy Jessica (Ehle) getting caught in the 2008 Islamabad Marriott Hotel bombing or the Camp Chapman attack the following year.

Yet the outcome is never in any doubt...and this knowledge leeches away tension to the extent that what you're really concerned about is does the dog brought in by the Navy SEALS make it out alive?

As a result, what emerges is a proficient exercise in re-creating the key events...but little insight into the wider implications of the assassination of America's greatest bogeyman.

Tim Evans