Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

zero dark thirty poster 2012 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Interesting to see modern history brought to life so soon after events

Fictionalized aspects of the story, torture questions, pacing of the film

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Zero Dark Thirty

Studio:  Columbia Pictures/Annapurna Pictures/First Light Production

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  December 10, 2012 (Premiere)/December 19, 2012 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

How confident am I? I can strike this Tom Cruise type pose…I’m that confident!

The World Trade Center has been attacked by al-Qaeda terrorists led by Osama bin Laden.  A young recruit named Maya (Jessica Chastain) has been assigned to team to bring him to justice by introducing new thoughts on how terrorists work.  Maya pulls no punches and is doing what she can to get the truth of bin Laden’s location which leads her to a suspect named Abu Ahmed who may, or may not be bin Laden’s primary messenger.  As political times change, Maya finds her quest for Abu Ahmed drying up, and the time and opportunity to take down bin Laden dwindling.  When new evidence surfaces, one of the greatest manhunts in history might be nearing its end.

Directed by Katheryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty is a historic war movie.  The film was met with both criticism and acclaim due to the portrayal of the events.  The movie received an Oscar for Best Sound Editing (which it shared with Skyfall) and nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress (Chastain), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing (some critics felt that Bigelow was snubbed for Best Director).

zero dark thirty cia waterboarding jason clarke

Showing waterboarding is bad…even if they did it

Zero Dark Thirty was a lot like The Social Network (with less style).  It was history unfolding as it happened.  The raid on Osama bin Laden’s location happened on May 2, 2011, and the film was released a little over a year later…a “historical” movie of current events.  It was fresh in the minds of people who saw it…which gave it power at the time, but it feels like it has aged a bit since its release.

The problem with Zero Dark Thirty is that it combines this realism of the “now” with fictionalized accounts of events.  The movie stirred up controversy by some claiming events are “too real” and that Bigelow must have been leaked information by military leaders, and on the flipside, there are others who claimed that the events never occurred.  Regardless (especially years after its release), the pacing of the movie is rather slow…somewhat intentionally as a means to demonstrate Chastain’s frustration in the process.

zero dark thirty seal team compound raid osama bin laden

I wonder what happens?!?!?!

Real controversy arose from the whole torture aspect of the film.  Torture and waterboarding did occur, that’s been confirmed, so I find it odd that Bigelow is being criticized for portraying it.  Many felt that Bigelow was “pro-torture” since in the film it does get results…but once again she’s telling a story.  It is shown through Chastain’s character (who is a composite and not an actual person) how a person can harden to the idea of torture, and I think as the viewer you are supposed to be conflicted by the scenes…they are wrong, but what steps would you take to protect others from dying?  I’m not making a judgment call on that, but I think that movie leaves it more open to the viewer to decide if the torture is warranted or against American beliefs.  Is it worth the moral cost is a question posed by the film but not implicitly asked.

zero dark thirty ending osama bin laden dead maya jessica chastain

Gotcha, sucker!!!

Chastain shows her strength in one of her earlier outings.  Her character is a bit over-the-top in her single mindedness, but I also do not think that the character would maybe show as much emotion as is allowed on screen to other characters.  She has a strong supporting cast including Kyle Chandler, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Chris Pratt, Mark Duplass, Chris Pratt, Mike Colter, John Barrowman, Harold Perrineau, and James Gandolfini among others.

Zero Dark Thirty is an interesting movie and it is put together well.  It raises interesting questions and does miss some opportunities for more discussion (within the movie) about the role of these C.I.A. agents and the bigger questions of how American security relates to world security…and if the U.S. is potentially the bully on the playground.  It is a question and idea you cannot examine in an unbias way considering the number of lives lost and the means the terrorists used.  The film makes you wish more for a documentary and less for a dramatization…though each would be bias in their own way.  The success of the film had the idea of a prequel film floated around, but the plans for a prequel seemed to fizzle for the best.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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