Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

When I first heard about Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, I suppose I was interested, but I don’t recall being overly excited for it. It was a story that we all already knew: 9/11 happened, we declared war on terrorism, several years went by, and Osama bin Laden was finally found and killed. But this film gives us much more than that: it explores how all of this happened, and it’s fascinating.

Jessica Chastain stars as Maya, a CIA officer whose sole focus is to find Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. Through torture of captured al-Qaeda operatives, information received from said operatives, and a fair amount of deduction, surveillance, and luck, Maya and the CIA manage to track down bin Laden…and the rest is history.

What carries this film, as I mentioned, is the want of the “how.” Through its vignette-style storytelling, skipping from year to year at a time, this film manages to keep us interested by jumping from the discovery of one piece of information to the next, which I really enjoyed. For the first half of the film, I was wondering why Jessica Chastain had been nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards; she certainly wasn’t bad, but she didn’t seem to be anything special either. My opinion changed in the second half, however, from the moment Maya stood up to her boss and told him exactly why what she was doing was important and what was on the line. The emotion she was able to project in that moment was incredible…though I still don’t think it’s worthy of a win for Best Actress.

Though I enjoyed Zero Dark Thirty as a whole, I did have a couple of issues with it. First off, the drive for the capture of bin Laden, while we certainly know what it was, didn’t seem to be very well-represented. Granted, we were shown a few terrorist attacks, including one in London and one or two that affected Maya and her team, but none of these really communicated to me the weight of the mission at hand. However, my biggest problem was with the overexcessive amount of foul language – I’m talking the “F word” out the wazoo, among others – that was present throughout the entire film from nearly every character. I can handle it to a point, but it was like the bad language was a large, wooden club that I was constantly being hit over the head with.

Bad language aside, this is a decent film with a captivating story; the search for Osama bin Laden was something that America feverishly pursued for nearly a decade, and to have the full story told in such an artful way is intriguing. I’m not sure exactly how accurate it is to the actual events, but it’s a good enough film for me to not care too much. Is it worthy of the coveted Best Picture award? I wouldn’t say so, but that doesn’t stop Zero Dark Thirty from being a powerful film – though, in reference to the torture early in the film, it is sometimes difficult to watch.


Rating: 4 (out of 5)

MPAA: R – for strong violence including brutal disturbing images, and for language


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