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For a decade, an elite team of intelligence and military operatives, working in secret across the globe, devoted themselves to a single goal: to find and eliminate Osama bin Laden. Zero Dark Thirty reunites the Oscar winning team of director-producer Kathryn Bigelow and writer-producer Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker) for the story of history's greatest manhunt for the world's most dangerous man.
Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews
- Reviews Counted: 262
- Fresh: 242
- Rotten: 20
- Average Rating: 8.6/10
Top Critics' Reviews
Fresh: What's striking is the absence of triumphalism -- Bigelow doesn't shy away from showing the victims shot down in cold blood in the compound -- and we come away with the overwhelming sense that this has been a grim, dark episode in our history.
Fresh: If you like World War II films, you'll enjoy this.
Fresh: Chastain makes Maya as vivid as a bloodshot eye. Her porcelain skin, delicate features and feminine attire belie the steel within.
Fresh: No doubt Zero Dark Thirty serves a function by airing America's dirty laundry about detainee and torture programs, but in its wake, there's a crying need for a compassionate Coming Home to counter its brutal Deer Hunter.
A TENSE, RIVETING DRAMA ABOUT THE HUNT FOR BIN LADEN
If you've seen or even heard about "Zero Dark Thirty", you'd know that it's by far the most widely controversial film of this or any other year. And why wouldn't it be? It's an extensive Hollywood production about one of the single biggest manhunts in human history, so of course this movie was only bound for criticism and debate from the moment it began production. Even recently, the CIA has accused the filmmakers for inaccurately portraying the barbaric and brutal interrogation-torture sequences that appear several times throughout the film. Whether or not the procedures depicted here are closely accurate to what actually happened can still be left up for discussion, but the matter of authenticity, despite its importance, isn't the main focus of "Zero Dark Thirty". Rather, the movie's goal is to shed a light on how far we've come since the events of 9/11 and where we're headed now as a nation. Yes, the story has its highs and lows, and most of the characters aren't nearly as strong or well-developed as they should be, but when "ZDT" finally climaxes in one of the most heart-pounding finales ever filmed, it's truly a riveting experience.
The story begins with the tragic events of September 11, after which the CIA is determined to track down Osama bin Laden, the villainous leader of Al-Qaeda and mastermind behind the terrorist attacks. Spearheading the search is tenacious analyst Maya (Jessica Chastain), who works with her colleague Dan (Jason Clarke) to interrogate prisoners and mobilize an elite team of intelligence and military operatives into action (which includes Jennifer Ehle and Harold Perrineau). Their bosses (Kyle Chandler and Mark Strong), the CIA director (James Gandolfini), and the national security advisor (Stephen Dillane) offer support and challenges. Along the way, several lives are lost. But eventually, Maya and her team's mission pays off when they get approval to send a team of Navy SEALs into bin Laden's supposed hideout. And the rest, of course, is history.
Director Kathryn Bigelow navigates us through the story with consistent tension and a largely impressive eye for detail. From 9/11 to the raid on bin Laden's compound and everything in between, she manages to pinpoint every major event that took place during the war on terror with unflinching brutality and a strong sense of urgency. The graphic action sequences are so unpredictable and happen so quickly, the movie doesn't even let you take a second to process it all. And as for the torture scenes I mentioned earlier, well, let's just say that if you get really squeamish around violence, this film is definitely not intended for you. Even though for the most part, the screenplay is handled with effective suspense and gritty realism, it's far from perfect. There were actually quite a few problems I had with this flick from the very beginning. For one, there's the film's star, Jessica Chastain. Don't get me wrong, she does a terrific job in terms of acting. But as a character, I just couldn't relate to her in any way. Maya's personality is almost entirely nonexistent throughout most of the movie, and her dialogue at times borders on excruciatingly bad. Sure, she gets to say a few clever lines here and there, but not enough to make us forget how underdeveloped she is as a protagonist. Another big issue for me was the pacing of the plot, which ended up being more of a distraction for me than I had anticipated. Most of the scenes drag on much longer than they need to, and the story, despite its meticulous execution, tends to overanalyze nearly every single plot point as if we don't have the ability to figure it out ourselves. The film never fully recovers from those distracting problems, but I'm glad I stuck through it all just to watch the final thirty minutes. Of course we know how it all ends, but the entire sequence of SEAL Team 6 raiding Osama's compound is so viscerally crafted, expertly filmed, and unbelievably intense, it'll leave you speechless. It's such a powerful finale that it instantly makes the previous two hours that led up to it feel like they paid off in the long run.
While I very much enjoyed "Zero Dark Thirty" and most of what it had to offer, I wouldn't call it the best film of 2012. Yes, the screenplay is ambitious and admirably complex, the score by Alexandre Desplat is masterfully engaging and suspenseful, and the intensely violent sequences of terrorism are both authentic and hauntingly visceral. I only wish that the characters were more well-developed and emotionally believable (Ms. Chastain still gives a good performance despite her weak role, but it's not Oscar-worthy), and that the movie wasn't filled with so many dreary boardroom scenes that drag on for what seems like an eternity. But despite its flaws, "Zero Dark Thirty" is a bold, gripping, and deeply thought-provoking portrayal that deftly dramatizes the decade-long hunt for Osama. It may not engage the most sensitive viewers, but it's still worth a watch for its gripping material.
Zero Dark Thirty
One of the best films of the year! DON'T listen to the people who say this movie is "Slow,Boring and Stupid" This is Best Picture Quality!
A turkey smothered in gravy
I can not believe intelligent people could praise this film so highly. Maybe they are doing so out of some kind of knee jerk patriotism. Maybe they are cheering for a tough, intelligent female lead character.
In my opinion their praise is wholly unwarranted both on the basis of this film as a depiction of the facts about Bin Laden's take down and as a piece of dramatic art. I am not going to detail the overwhelming number of historical inaccuracies presented as fact in a film that masquerades as a concisely accurate true story. Anyone can find reputable sources to understand the real sequence of events. And putting it all on the rather implausibly attractive shoulders of one maverick, female CIA analyst bucking the system is not only false, it is disrespectful to the thousands of dedicated individuals who were ultimately responsible for getting Bin Laden.
Moreover, this is not a particularly great piece of art or entertainment. If you want a thrilling and accurate historical detective story I would suggest "All the President's Men", if you want a tough and intelligent heroine I would suggest Sigourney Weaver in "Aliens". This movie provides neither. It is dramatically disjointed and the lead character is a rather annoying, paper tigress. And she utters some really pathetic, unconvincing one liners.
I really should have rented this piece of crap, but based on the strength of the reviews and Bigelow's "Hurt Locker" which I thought was terrific, I bought the HD version of the film.
I just learned the lesson that a lousy film can fool a whole lot of people and legion of movie reviewers too boot!