The prestigious New York Film Critics Circle gave "Zero Dark Thirty," Kathryn Bigelow's thriller about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, a new shove in the direction of Oscar glory Monday.
The director of the Oscar-winning "The Hurt Locker" is quickly gathering buzz for her latest war drama, which recounts the decade-long search for the Al-Qaeda founder and his killing in Pakistan in May 2011.
The critics group named the film best of 2012 and Bigelow best director. Honors from the NYFCC, made up of newspaper, magazine and online critics, have no direct bearing on the Academy Awards, but the extra publicity won't hurt a film that will not even open in limited release until December 19.
The group highlighted Daniel Day-Lewis in Steven Spielberg's likely Oscar contender "Lincoln" for best actor. The historical biopic also saw Sally Field winning best supporting actress and Tony Kushner best screenplay.
"Zero Dark Thirty" centers on a female CIA analyst -- played by Jessica Chastain -- credited as a key force in the hunt for the Al-Qaeda chief, killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in an audacious dead-of-night raid on his hiding place in Pakistan.
"'Zero Dark Thirty' could well be the most impressive film Bigelow has made, as well as possibly her most personal," commented the Hollywood Reporter, after initial screenings of the movie.
Entertainment Weekly tipped it as a possible nominee for best film, best director, best screenplay and best leading actress for Chastain, who was Oscar nominated for her supporting role in last year's civil rights drama "The Help."
"Zero Dark Thirty" gets its limited U.S. release this month to qualify for February's Academy Awards show, but the general release is not until January.
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