Despite being a story we already know the outcome of, this is never anything short of gripping.

Bigelow guides us through the myriad leads and dead ends that marked the biggest manhunt in history, as Jessica Chastain’s Maya (a fictionalised take on a CIA operative known as ‘Jen’) refuses to give up on tracking down her man.

Unfolding across 10 years, it touches upon the 2005 London bombings, interrogation techniques as part of the CIA’s detainee programme, Obama’s election, and the changing political winds that ended waterboarding-gained results (debate has raged about the film’s pro-or-not torture stance).

It’s all en route to a climactic near real-time staging of the 2011 assault on a Pakistan compound that saw bin Laden killed.

A CIA procedural punctuated by moments of violence and heart-pounding tension, Bigelow’s film uses many of the skills and techniques from Locker to outstanding effect.

In Maya, whose obsession kept the hunt going while many at the CIA believed ‘UBL’ to be dead, she has a fascinating character – a woman characterised by strength, vulnerability and isolation, whose life is marked by one cause to the exclusion of seemingly all else.

While Aussie Jason Clarke (Lawless) is fiercely intimidating as a CIA interrogator (“I am not your friend…”) and Chastain is deserving of her Golden Globe glory, it is Bigelow’s film and her finest, most ambitious to date.

Her exclusion from this year’s best director Oscar list is baffling. 

%TNT Magazine% stars 4

Good for: Seeing that a Hollywood spy thriller does not have to mean Tom Cruise’s MI series

: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton | 15 | 160mins | Out January 25