Kathryn Bigelow sure likes her men in uniform. The 61 year-old revisits the subject of war in collaboration, once again, with screenwriter Mark Boal. The twosome previously worked on 2008's Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, which earned Bigelow the honour of becoming the first female to win the Academy Award for Best Director.

"Based on first-hand accounts of actual events", Zero Dark Thirty is claimed to be one of the most important films of the year. Controversial? Yes Important? Maybe. The Best? Far from it.

Zero Dark Thirty focuses on Maya (Chastain); a rookie CIA agent who is sent to the Middle East two years after the events of 9/11. There, she witnesses her associate fellow CIA officer, Dan (Clarke), go to great lengths to extract information about the whereabouts of a Bin Laden courier – a figure they believe will lead them to the to the world’s most wanted man himself.

The film proceeds to portray the gruelling details of the torture methods used as part of the cross-examination of prisoners; sleep deprivation, dog collars, gritty tie-ropes and more. Maya, new to all this, complies and remains in the background in hushed silence. What follows is a drawn-out account of investigations, interviews and trips around various tribal territories in Afghanistan before the final face-off in Pakistan on May 2nd 2011.

Naturally, Zero Dark Thirty has been receiving criticism since long before it release; something that has subsequently made it one of the most anticipated films of the past 12 months. But for all the buzz, this is a piece of cinema that has been unable to live up to the significance of its subject. Messy and confusing at times, one of the film’s biggest downfalls is the heart, or lack thereof. Essentially, this story is of Maya’s ten-year mission to locate and eliminate one of the most notorious and sought after terrorists in history. Yet, Zero Dark Thirty is soulless and feels a little too technical and clinical.

On the upside, Bigelow shines in the last thirty minutes when the film reaches its dramatic climax. Her naturalistic, deadpan approach works well and gives the scene a sense of formality and much-needed gravity.

As the leading lady, Chastain is surprisingly flat in her role as a real-life CIA Agent; her pokerfaced presence makes the character blend into the background and it infuses no real persona to the protagonist of the plot.

The subject may be daring, so soon after the events, but Zero Dark Thirty feels a little too Hollywood.