DVD reviews: Zero Dark Thirty | Wreck-It Ralph

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ESCHEWING the kind of easy through-line that might conceivably have shown by cause and effect how American forces finally found and killed Osama bin Laden, Katherine Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty dramatises instead how fraught with difficulty and uncertainty each line of inquiry was, in order to present a tough, intellectually rigorous cinematic response to the War on Terror realities of the post-9/11 world.

Zero Dark Thirty

Universal, £21.99

Wreck-It Ralph

Disney, £21.99

Based on first hand accounts, it stars Jessica Chastain as Maya, a fresh-from-Washington field agent whose tenacity and adaptability make her ideally suited to obsessively tracking down bin Laden over the course of a decade. She’s a fascinating character and Chastain is astonishing in the role, not because it’s a particularly showy part, but because the character remains such an enigma. Maya is defined by ruthlessly executed action and, as such, the film becomes an almost fetishistic tribute to her and her colleagues’ relentless professionalism. Whole sections are devoted to exploring the enemy’s “tradecraft” in thrillingly minute detail and Bigelow expertly mines the particulars of this real-world, globe-hopping procedural to surreptitiously ratchet up the tension as the net closes in. The tension is jacked-up immeasurably during the climactic assault by Seal Team 6 on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. But Bigelow doesn’t use gung-ho theatrics for effect. Shot mostly in night vision, the operation is depicted matter-of-factly without swelling music, Hollywood heroics or gratuitous shots of bin Laden’s executed corpse. Zero Dark Thirty is stunning on every level.

Marking an imaginative and entertainingly anarchic return to form for Disney Animation, Wreck-It Ralph has absorbed the best lessons of Pixar to tell the story of a video game character who, tired of always being the bad guy, jumps into another game to prove his worth as a hero. Here, John C Reilly is magnificent as the voice of Wreck-It Ralph; his longing for acceptance and his desire to be loved and love others even bringing to mind Reilly’s sad-sack cop from Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. Chaos necessarily ensues from Ralph’s actions, but so too do wonderfully defined characters, great jokes and a loving tribute to gaming culture. Great stuff.

• To order these DVDs, call The Scotsman on 01634 832789