Jason Clarke in Zero Dark Thirty | MVP
The Australian actor is one of the undersung heroes of Kathryn Bigelow’s film.
Jessica Chastain’s Maya (and the torture controversy) understandably got the headlines, but one of many undersung virtues of Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty is Australian actor Jason Clarke’s performance as her CIA colleague, Dan. Unlike Maya, a cipher defined only through her work, Clarke’s operative goes through a clearly discernible arc. First seen as a hardened, vicious interrogator who brutalizes detainees and insists that everyone breaks in the end, he becomes more ambivalent as the political winds shift, warning Maya that she doesn’t want to be the last one standing with a dog collar in her hand. Clarke also participates in one of the few segments of the film that approach dark comedy, as Dan bribes a Kuwaiti for information by buying him a fancy car in the dead of night. And there’s yet another layer to the role, when Dan commits a subtle act of betrayal by declining to back up Maya’s certainty during a meeting with Leon Panetta (James Gandolfini). It’s a plum part, and Clarke tackles it with a mixture of ferocity, bemusement and reserve one hopes will make this recognizable actor a household name. (Available on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray Tue 19.)