THE DVD SHELF: "Les Miserables," "Hands on a Hardbody," "Zero Dark Thirty," "Ministry of Fear" and More

By Steven Suskin
31 Mar 2013

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Jessica Chastain, the Juilliard graduate whose recent stint in The Heiress is likely to earn her a Best Actress slot in this season's Tony Award stakes, was also on this year's Oscar list for Zero Dark Thirty. One of last year's top films — both in terms of box office business and critical reviews — this was the self-described tale of "history's greatest manhunt for the world's most dangerous man." (John Wilkes Booth, anybody? The Lindbergh kidnapper? Saddam Hussein?) At any rate, Ms. Chastain's character — a determined loner called Maya — searches for and ultimately finds (spoiler alert!) Osama Bin Laden, hiding in suburban Pakistan.

The film was torn from the headlines, and made headlines of its own. Was "Zero Dark Thirty," which was initially scheduled to open just before the last presidential election, too pro-Obama for fairness? Was the film's stance that brutal torture played a key part in the successful search an accurate representation of the facts? Did the filmmakers have improper access to classified material?

As a result, "Zero Dark Thirty" became something of a news story of its own. Did the backlash effect the Oscar race, in which the film, the star, and director Kathryn Bigelow — at one point seen by some as frontrunners — seemed to lose support? Perhaps. Even so, "Zero Dark Thirty" is a cracker-jack thriller which (unlike most of its ilk) actually gives a sense of the long, hard, weary and discouraging path that — in this case — led to success.

Special features include "No Small Feat — Making 'Zero Dark Thirty'"; "The Compound," offering a tour of the compound set; "Geared Up," showing the cast training for the storming of the compound; and "Targeting Jessica Chastain," which looks at the star and her role. And yes, Ms. Chastain — who was so good in the 2001 film "The Help" — thoroughly deserves the accolades for her hunt for Bin Laden.

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