The Masters: Movieline Critic Alison Willmore's Top 10 Films of 2012
An unruly fable, a tale of mourning and an intense child's-eye view of the world as a place alive with magic light and dark, Benh Zeitlin's debut is a thrilling, sui generis work of art. Shadowed by the spectre of Katrina and rising sea levels that threaten the southern coast, Beasts of the Southern Wild turns the promise of approaching destruction, both natural and mortal, into something to be refused and relished in equal measure. Six-year old Hushpuppy (the wonderful Quvenzhané Wallis) is facing life without her father and a future in which her home in The Bathtub — the Louisiana community in which she lives — may be washed away. But like the horned aurochs that figure in the story, she's a fierce creature braced to face an enchanting, frightening world with no fear in her heart.
Kathryn Bigelow doesn't politicize her depiction of the decade-long search for Osama bin Laden. She does something much bolder, giving us a steady-eyed, rigorous procedural about how Maya (Jessica Chastain), a young CIA analyst with no apparent interests outside of her job, takes in the dead ends, the passing years, the torture techniques euphemistically passed off as "enhanced interrogation," and the sacrifices required to get the job done. And when it is finally done, Zero Dark Thirty does not offer clear catharsis or empty jingoism. From a start in which terrified voices from 9/11 play out over a black screen to an ending that finds the film's protagonist very much alone, it's a stark, gritty portrayal of modern war that's free of the illusion of certainty.