Friday Flicks: Oscar Contenders, Blockbusters and Comedies Are Released for the Holidays

TIME breaks down which films to see and which to avoid this holiday season.

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Columbia Pictures

Stationed in a covert base overseas, Jessica Chastain (center) plays a member of the elite team of spies and military operatives who secretly devoted themselves to finding Osama Bin Laden

Zero Dark Thirty

Tagline: The Greatest Manhunt in History.

It’s pretty well known that the Oscar winning team behind The Hurt Locker – director-producer Kathryn Bigelow and writer-producer Mark Boal – changed tack on their latest project, Zero Dark Thirty, once the real life events of Osama bin Laden being killed meant that truth was suddenly stranger than fiction.

And so, the story centers around Maya (Jessica Chastain) the CIA agent heading up the hunt in this fictionalized search for OBL. Even though the movie has been a hit with critics, it’s been hard to hear much about the movie due to the controversy surrounding Zero Dark Thirty’s portrayal of torture by the CIA.

We’re not here to get into that, thankfully, so on to the reviews — and they’re stellar. “The most important American fiction movie about Sept. 11, a landmark that would be more impressive if there were more such films to choose from,” notes the New York Times. “As major as Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker felt, it’s hard to appreciate the leap she takes here, launching her actors into scorched, obsessed territory last roamed by David Fincher’s Zodiac,” observes Time Out New York. “It combines ruthlessness and humanity in a manner that is paradoxical and disconcerting yet satisfying as art,” writes The New YorkerTIME’s Richard Corliss concurs, noting, “This is movie journalism that snaps and stings, that purifies a decade’s clamor and clutter into narrative clarity, with a salutary kick.”

Q&A: Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal on Strong Women and Strong Helicopters

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