‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Review

Published 1 year ago by , Updated September 11th, 2014 at 2:14 am,

Zero Dark Thirty Review Starring Jessica Chastain Zero Dark Thirty Review

With Zero Dark Thirty, Oscar-winning Hurt Locker director/writer duo Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal re-team to tell the behind-the-scenes story of the greatest manhunt of all time: the search for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

The first two-thirds of the film trail a CIA analyst named “Maya” (Jessica Chastain) who – following the 9/11 attacks – is thrust into the thick of the bin Laden search. Maya proves to be a voracious investigator – “a killer,” as she’s dubbed by her boss (Kyle Chandler) – but as months of the hunt stretch into years marked by frustrations, dead-ends and failures, what was once enthusiasm becomes obsession. Finally, after nearly a decade, when an unlikely lead at last breaks into solid intel, Maya struggles to convince the powers that be to authorize one of the most important missions in US military history.

In reality, Zero Dark Thirty plays like a workplace drama that is bolstered at the end by an intense military thriller. The determining factor between those who will love it, and those who will hate it, is how well the tension of the workplace drama matches the tension of the action set pieces. Despite the fact that the climax of the film is also one of the biggest headlines of the 21st century (i.e., known to pretty much everyone), ZDT will nonetheless leave many viewers feeling in need of a shower and a calming drink by the time it’s all said and done.

Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty Zero Dark Thirty Review

Jessica Chastain in ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

It is largely thanks to a fantastic cast that even the static moments of the film carry so much weight and gravity. Standing center ring is Jessica Chastain (The HelpThe DebtTree of Life) whose career has been on a meteoric rise with good reason. Maya is not your traditional three-dimensional character; rather, she almost acts as the embodiment of America’s relentless drive to achieve a single goal. With her plucky, spitfire demeanor and wide-eyed haunted stare, watching Maya’s transition from neophyte to tireless cynic and back into a vulnerable, feeling, human being, is a nuanced experience conveyed by a deftly-skilled actress. And, when given opportunity, Chastain certainly steals scenes with some standout monologues and one-liners. A star has indeed arrived…

Also standing out in the crowd are Joel Edgerton (The Thing) and Chris Pratt (Park and Recreation) as two members of the DEVGRU special forces unit. The pair have great chemistry and banter, and Pratt puts his comedic background to great use – only to then trump that good standing with impressive dramatic chops during the film’s climatic sequence. Another standout is Chastain’s Lawless co-star Jason Clarke, who plays “Dan,” the CIA analyst/interrogator who first trains Maya in the field. Clarke brings equal mix rawness and charm to just about every role he plays, and here he creates a character so complex and engaging, so effortlessly, it’s almost frightening.

Jason Clarke Zero Dark Thirty Zero Dark Thirty Review

Jason Clarke in ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

This is a movie of many faces, and the quality central performances get a boost from a parade of actors who provide support. We get everything from acclaimed stars like James Gandolfini (The Sopranos), Kyle Chandler (Argo) and Jennifer Ehle (Contagion); to character actors like Stephen Dillane (Game of Thrones), Edgar Ramirez (Wrath of the Titans) and Mark Strong (Kick-Ass); to unlikely additions such as comedy actor Mark Duplass (The League) and action star Scott Adkins (Expendables 2). And considering how little action there actually is in the film, it’s a small feat that no one feels underdeveloped or extraneous. Players play their parts, and then move on.

Boal’s script has courted controversy due to claims that it exposes too much actual classified information about US intelligence operations. While this is a movie (not a documentary concerned with “truth”), there is the sense that ZDT progresses according to a cut-and-dry bullet-point list of dates and events, rather than a strong narrative through line. However, that’s not much of a detriment, thanks to Bigelow’s ability to add weight, insight and gravity to each event we pause to explore.

It is the (at least perceived) sense of verisimilitude in Boal’s script that can often be the most disturbing aspect of the film: the thought of discussions and events we are witnessing actually being accurate to real life is quite unnerving when it comes to scenes of aggressive interrogation, bumbling government bureaucracy or combat casualties. The myth of heroism is a bright thing; ZDT manages to convey the very real darkness, personal toll and utter confusion that is often the reality of that myth.

 Zero Dark Thirty Review

The Hurt Locker illustrated Bigelow’s ability to create white-knuckle thrills even out of quiet, static moments – and this film pushes that talent to new levels. From the very first frame, she crafts a bubble of stress and tension that is subtle yet permeates every scene without the overpowering tactics of ambient music or frantic camera movement. Our own real-life angst fills the stillness and quiet, sapping us even as we watch Maya being worn down by that very same emotion. The final third of the film is its crowning achievement, and stands as one of the best (and most tense) military action sequences ever captured on film.

Some people may not be engaged by the office drama and interrogation sequences that comprise the first two-thirds of the story. However, as stated before, by the time the credits roll many will be in need of a cleansing wash and a stiff drink – and even those not won over by the office drama, or Maya’s character arc, will still likely get caught up in the big action/thriller finish.

It may be going into wide release here in 2013, but for those (like myself) who saw it earlier, it’s easy to name ZDT as one of the best films of 2012.

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For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check out our Zero Dark Thirty episode of the SR Underground podcast.

Zero Dark Thirty is now playing in wide release. It is 157 minutes long, and is Rated R for strong violence including brutal disturbing images, and for language.

Our Rating:

4.5 out of 5
(Must-See)

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  1. “Boal’s script has courted controversy due to claims that it exposes too much actual classified information about US intelligence operations. While this is a movie (not a documentary concerned with “truth”), there is the sense that the ZDT progresses according to a cut-and-dry bullet-point list of dates and events, rather than a strong narrative through line.”

    Wrong.

    There has been very little (albeit some) controversy over whether it exposed too much intelligence information.

    There has been a lot of controversy over the fact that the movie deliberately leaves viewers with the impression that [1] torture (and make no mistake, it was absolutely torture) produces reliable results and [2] produced the specific intelligence leading to the location and attack on Bin-Laden’s compound. Both of those are known to be completely false, no matter the amount of bluster from the pro-torture crowd.

    When pushed on the points the producer and director claim it’s not trying to be a documentary, but the movie is still making maliciously false claims about real events that end up becoming part of the narrative if they aren’t corrected.

    • LOL

      ME: “Boal’s script has courted controversy due to claims that it exposes too much actual classified information about US intelligence operations….”

      RYAN: “Wrong.”

      RYAN: “There has been very little (albeit some) controversy over whether it exposed too much intelligence information.”

      More to the point: In the film, it is actually when the Maya and Dan move AWAY from torture and into psychological manipulation that they are able to break more significant leads. So I’m not sure I agree with your overall point.

      • Why is it bluster blistered it’s an opposing view point. How many more Americans need to die at the hands of terrorists before you think it’s okay to waterboard someone with solid info?

        Interrogation of KSM did lead to some big intelligence finds as well as preventative action on our part.

        That said, based on what I am hearing about the movie, it sounds like I would appreciate a documentary over a Hollywood dramatization of actual events.

        • Stupid auto correct! Bluster If it*

      • Wow! That is what I was thinking after the movie. I had some reservations about the torture going in, but I thought it was handled well.

    • Agreed!

    • i think that is just a testament to how good Kathryn bigelow really is. This lady is and has been one of the best damn action directors in Hollywood. i’m sexist when i want to be too… but she’s the real goods.

      Don’t forget she made Point Break before Heat came out.

      • Rewatched Point Break the other day, what a great movie. Can’t wait to see ZDT.

    • Just sayin’ it don’t make it so: There’s a solid argument to be made that pouring water on bad guys and scaring them into coughing up intell IS NOT torture. Unpleasant, rough? No doubt. Torture? Highly questionable — despite your “make no mistake” and “absolutely” assurances. For one thing, lots of our American troops have to endure it as part of their training — I guess the US gov’t is torturing its own forces, then. Congress better convene a panel to investigate that. Additionally, there is lots of evidence that, at the very least, waterboarding-obtained information played a key role in tracking down OBL. Not all by itself, of course, but as a piece in assembling the entire puzzle. That’s a pretty inconvenient facet of this narrative for those who will forever, no matter what, conclude water-boarding can never, under any circumstances, serve a role in protecting civilized society — so at all costs they must discredit just about any “enhanced” interrogation techniques. It’s easy to sit back now that that Taliban-devil is dead and sniff at the unsparing steps our forces took to deliver justice to him; but I, for one, am going to give them the benefit of the doubt.

      • Water Boarding is an exact science and as such it could be torture and some cases, death.

        When you waterboard someone, you take into account of their size and the ability to retain water in their lungs. Lungs are one of the organs that fits the person, so if you are 5’2 140 lbs, you are not going to have the same lung capacity as a person who is 6’5 270.

        Now, here is it where it becomes deadly. If the person does not reveal the have a repository condition, then water boarding will indeed kill them. The water they injest will not have the volume of space in the lungs, what water seeps through the towel will get into the lungs and that person will die.

        Rule of water boarding is to use x amount of water for x amount of time, regardless.

      • I would water board a thousand people without batting an eye if it means keeping my family and friends safe. I know it sounds horrific but it’s true.

  2. An excellent movie. It reminded me a lot of the Hurt Locker in the film style. Another great movie by Bigelow. I’m still surprised she wasn’t nominated for best director. The actors were just great. I watched the Natgeo version of this movie as well(Seal Team 6) which was nicely done as well so it was great to compare the two. On the Nat Geo version though they did make out the Seals in the compound raid more “sympathetic” or “humane” I guess you can say than this movie which left me kind of surprised in this movies approach on how the Seals/Maya was portrayed. All in all though it’s an excellent movie

  3. I felt like there were major problems with pacing and the running time seemed to drag on forever. Chastain’s outbursts felt just like that, outbursts and not strong emotional performances. Kofi, I didn’t get the sense that she was a “voracious” interrogator – in fact, I felt the opposite. Totally agree with you on Clarke as Dan though.

    Maya barely spoke to any detainees and when she did it wasn’t with any real sense of power. But Dan talked to them though and I felt bad for the detainee because their day was about to get worse.

    I’d rate Argo higher over this and to me, leaving Affleck off of the Best Director Oscar list is more of a snub that Bigelow. I loved The Hurt Locker but this underwhelmed me.

    Anyone known if “Maya” was a real character in the actual story or is she more of a composite of a group of characters?

  4. Kofi, I enjoyed the movie but I have to disagree with your rating of the film. The film was too long in it’s time but the timeline of the film was shockingly difficult to follow. It just jumps around and skips blocks of years without really informing the viewer. I don’t think Chastain did a good job with her character at all. Her lines felt way too forced. Also, the torture didn’t really faze me either. It’s probably because I’ve seen films like A Serbian Film and Salo that I did not find the torture in any way discomforting. However, the one thing this film accomplished more than anything else is that it shows the real protectors of America are these people on the frontlines and not the politicians in charge. The film is not really that tense except for a few moments but it is not worthy of best picture.

    • She’s a real CIA officer named jen. That’s all that’s known tho

      • I’m aware of the entire true story but the fact remains that Chastain’s performance was atrocious. She didn’t come off obsessed and when she delivered the line about being an m-f’er it was hysterical. She just really didn’t do it for me. I’ll just add one more thing about this film. Now I really liked it but I just felt it was so vague that you could tell perfectly that for the exception of a few smaller details (and one massive one being the death of bin Laden) this film really lacked anything of significance. It felt like they couldn’t tell much of the story which made me feel like what’s the point of even making this if you omit years and years of work from the story. This comment below me is also dead on about Homeland. I would have rather seen the level of obsession from Claire Danes’s character in the role of Maya. Fact is, this just wasn’t the right film for Chastain and I think that’s why they passed on nominating Bigelow for Best Director, they pretty terribly miscast the role of Maya.

        • I agree with Johnny. If she wins the oscar for best actress, I will be distraught with frustration at the academy.

          And the Globes are bought before the envelopes are opened… 4k filmmakers and artists, which is cheaper?

          CJ.

          • I’m amazed how many people weren’t impressed with Chastain’s performance, she definitely feel obsessed, and just like the reviewer here talked about Bigelow giving “gravity” and “weight” to certain situations, which was frankly a necessity because

            A) There isn’t a lot of plot progression for the majority of the film
            B)Everyone knows the ending, so there’s no surprise or bit “twist”

            These things are paramount for films with these circumstances, and as Bigelow did, Chastain did both of these things TREMENDOUSLY She made you feel exactly as you would if you were in her seat, her outbursts felt so natural and from a very logical and emotional state that any of us in her shoes would of done. How could you not see her tremendous chemistry with the guy who portrayed Dan, or Kyle Chandler? I’m honestly appalled someone would not realize what she accomplished in this film.

            Now as far as her winning the Oscar, should she win? I think Jennifer Lawrence should, she was impeccable in Silver linings Playbook, but would Chastain winning be a disappointment? Hell no, anyone who says otherwise, frankly doesn’t know acting.

  5. By the sounds of the first few paragraphs, it has a similar recipe as homeland. An obsessed CIA agent (female, not that it matters) always on the tail of a high profile terrorist. If thats true then I am very excited for this movie.

    • Pretty much but it’s not as intense as Homeland IMO. This feels like one of those timeline dramas where the action/intense momemts is limited. With Homeland you are at the edge of your seat throughout and with this movie, although great acting, you don’t feel that intense moment throughout the movie. For me, I felt that Seal Team 6 was more intense(and it’s a Nat Geo film) which should say a lot, LOL. I am a huge Bigelow fan though so this film is right up there but not as good as The Hurt Locker

    • The similarity to Homeland is not accidental, at least not on the Homeland front. There is a lot of talk that the Homeland lead was modeled after the same analyst that is portrayed in ZDT.

  6. There is no doubt that this a long movie, but it certainly didn’t feel that way to me. I was instantly gripped.

    The start was a grave reminder of why Bin Laden was enemy no.1, and provided the platform for the whole film. It was absolutely chilling.

    When watching this film the viewer must be aware that Bigelow is a great film maker, and her primary interest is in telling a story that is engaging,that people want to see. Truth, although important, is of secondary importance to the overall telling of a compelling story. It is always thus in Hollywoodland.

    I mention this because the only criticism I have is the final shot of the film that left me distinctly unimpressed. Although perfectly in harmony with the story she was telling, it jarred beacause the tone of the film had the verisimilitude of truth and finished with what I thought was a piece of clear emotional fakery.

    As a master storyteller, Bigelow knew just exactly how to shake the audience up during periods short of action in the first two thirds of the film. I’m thinking of Mark Strong’s CIA bigwig, the London shots, the hotel- scenes that hammered home the importance of killing Bin Laden.

    I loved this film. I loved it as a piece of entertainment, I loved it as a piece of revisionist film making that will excite students of film for generations for its pseudo historicity and, paradoxically, as a historical document of our times.

    At the penultimate scenes I found myself saying ‘Yeah!!, Fxxxxx shoot the bxxxxxx’. I then felt somewhat embarassed as I felt like an anti-American Pakistani burning effigies of Bush.
    Such is the power of film, and in this film you WILL feel every bullet as if you yourself were being shot.

    • Also, Jason Clarke completely overshadowed Chastain. No mean feat. He was ‘DanielDayesque’( Copyright highlander)!

      • Was he the one who played the interrogator at the beginning? Because he was excellent.

        • He was excellent in lawless as well.

    • I agree with some of what you say yet the feelings of which this film evoked in you did not inspire me in the same manner. In the grand scheme of things I don’t think that this film will have much staying power. Bigelow is great and she is making the films that her ex-husband should have made. The problem was that I just didn’t feel any sort of discomfort from the torture scenes and I was most definitely not affected by Maya. I think Homeland may have spoiled me because Clair Danes plays an obsessed CIA operative far better than Jessica Chastain. And for me, that almost ruined the film because she just did not pull it off.

      And as for your idea about this being something in which the audience will feel every bullet I highly disagree. The general public, myself included, have certain expectations when it comes to these shootout scenes that typically are very over the top when compared to reality (Django Unchained is a perfect example of this). The reality is pretty much what we saw in the film’s final act with the raid on the compound and that just doesn’t play as well for audiences. That’s my main issue with this film. Because the film is so real, it lacks depth. The characters have zero depth making it difficult to identify with anyone on any level. I’ll probably never watch this film again either.

      With all that said, the film is still quite good but it is not as good as you stated. When it comes to entertainment, the film fails. When it comes to storytelling, the film succeeds to an extent.

  7. I though this movie was phenomenal. All the talk about torture misses some of the big points that seem to be made about torture in the movie.

    There is no direct actionable evidence that comes out of a torture scene.
    The torture takes a toll on not just the prisoners, but also the analysts that do it.
    The bits of evidence that are developed from the tortured prisoner are due to standard interrogation techniques that involve isolation from news and trickery. To be sure, it seems like the torture has made the prisoner more susceptible to these techniques, but there is no direct line from torture to results.
    During the torture scenes, the prisoner is shown willing to say anything, showing that torture is an unreliable technique.
    After the bit of intel is acquired, it still takes years and multiple leads to really follow up on it and make it into something that can be used.

    I loved the Hurt Locker and feel that this movie follows in the same vein. Though it is based on true events, like the Hurt Locker, this movie tells a larger story set against a conflict fresh in our minds. Hurt Locker was not about the Iraq war, it was about an adrenaline junkie and how war changes the soldiers.

    Zero Dark Thirty can not be divorced from the hunt for OBL as easily, but it is really about the dogged pursuit of a single lead by an obsessed analyst. The movie was originally about the FAILED hunt for OBL (or UBL if you want the use the movie’s term). This frustration about the politics behind the raid, the resources required, and the change in priorities in the war on terror really come through in the first 3/4 of the movie.

    • Yes, Bigelow did a great job showing the frustrations of politics in deciding to give to go ahead. I though, IMO, feel that Seal Team 6 did a better job telling the story of what went on behind all the issues on why it took soo long to give the go ahead. Bigelow did a great job telling the story why Maya was soo connected with the mission and UBL. The actual raid was done better in Seal Team 6 with the raid being shot the same way as Bigelow’s but without the “shakey” camera feel. Jason Clarke stole the show for me. Jessica Chastain’s character felt forced at times(her outburst).

  8. Is there going to be a spoilers page for this? This isn’t a joke – maybe i’m over thinking but was the ending supposed to be a little ambiguous as far as Maya’s reaction upon seeing..ya know???

  9. Can someone please explain why this movie is important or should matter to me at all? I fell like its no more groundbreaking than Unthinkable.

    • It’s not our job to explain what’s important to YOU, “Concurred.” At all. I always roll my eyes when people drop that question…

      “Hey man – explain to me what matters to me.”

  10. Far from the pro-Obama commentary the Republicans have been quick to suggest it is, I thought it was a very fair (if albeit one-sided. Would be interesting to see a film covering the opposite perspective), very well told piece of cinema. Make no mistake, it is a piece of cinema, with cinema authenticity. There were no grandiose speeches, no American flag blowing in the wind, no fist pumping hell yeahs. In this respect, it nailed both the melancholy and the determination felt after 9/11. I thought Jessica Chastain was an engaging lead, the editing was tight, the camera unobtrusive and the pacing fine for a film of both such length (compared to ‘Django Unchained’, which had me tetchy and restless 90 minutes in) and little action (save for the last act). It had problems of course. With no real characterisation it would be difficult for audiences outside the US to connect with the personal journey of the central figure and the drive she (ie America) had to resolve this chapter of their history. Also, like ‘The Hurt Locker’, I do not get the need to bring in big name actors for such small parts that merely distracted me more than anything (Mark Strong especially. Why not just cast an American actor?). Not as unnecessarily manipulative as ‘THL’ (You could practically hear Bigalow screaming, “Look, big name stars die in this movie. Don’t you see? War is bad and can kill anyone!!!”), but still a distraction. The real achievement though was how tense the final act was. Taking cue for her ex-husband no doubt. Like Titanic, we all know how it ended but it never once impacts the quality or the drama of the scene.

    Nice review as always, Kofi :)

  11. Movie was ok, yeah it was long.. but it held my interest..

    if they had picked a real actress to play the lead role, the movie would have been better.. i didnt buy her performance at all.. TBH within 20 minutes i wanted to punch her in the face.. annoying as hell…

    They needed a Julianna Moore to play that role… you know, someone who can actually act and hold a scene let alone an entire movie for that matter..

    I put this movie along side Hurt locker, both are ok movies.. but i will never watch either one again..

    • Are you kidding? Have you followed Jessica Chastain’s career at all? You really think she’s a bad actress?

      Repeat: Are you kidding?

      The more I hear from people who didn’t like Chastain, the more it all begins to sound like misongony to me. So far it’s been 100% men, often expressing some desire to physically assault this female character (I wanted to slap her, hit her, shoot her), while writing the performance off as female petulance – same as if their wife or girlfriend was complaining about her choice of shoes or outfit.

      It be interesting to see if it was a male character in the lead – would these same dudes react the same way, or would they see a “deep and layered performance?”

      Guess we’ll never know…

      • @Kofi

        I haven’t seen the movie, so can’t really speak for her acting, but just wanted to comment on something real quick. If you think people have a problem with her because she was a strong woman and not someone that’s feeble, I think that’s unfortunate. I’m the opposite, I love it when a woman in a movie is strong and “feisty” lol. Maybe that’s why I’m completely in love with Amy Adams now, after seeing her in The Fighter and Trouble with the Curve. Both movies she played this strong, independent, and determined woman that doesn’t take crap from anybody, lol. Love it!!

      • since you are playing the antagonist to each response am not going to stoop to your level..

        somewhat..

        for me, she cant act.. she was horrible.. as person, am sure she is very lovely..
        that’s my opinion.. you dont like it, who cares..

        • Brofist.

  12. @Kofi

    No disrespect, but if you thought The Hurt Locker was good and had “white knuckle thrills,” then I’ll consider that a sign that I will dislike this movie just as much if you can equate the two… Sorry, but anyone with a military background will tell you that The Hurt Locker was the fakest war movie ever made with so many contrived scenes and situations that was so obviously trying very hard to provide said “white knuckle thrills.” Maybe it succeeds with some people, but it doesn’t with people who actually can tell the difference between a truly real and authentic tense moment and a Hollywood super-dramatized attempt at creating one… And again, not saying you’re oblivious or that you are “dumb” or anything, it’s completely understandable for people who have never been in those types of situations to not be able to tell what is authentic and what isn’t. Says absolutely nothing about intelligence or anything and I’m making no such statement.

    Pretty much, The Hurt Locker would wow civilians while making military guys roll their eyes… And something tells me this will be the same thing.

    Although I wouldn’t limit this to just military movies, I actually find all of Bigelow’s movies that I’ve seen to be not enjoyable. I don’t get why people loved Point Break so much. It was full of really overly wannabe dramatic moments that I simply found cheesy and not at all something I can relate to… But that’s just me I guess…

    • I’m sure that firemen have a problem with fireman movies, police have a problem with police movies, etc…

      They’re movies they don’t have to be real. I don’t watch Star Trek complaining about how a warp drive works or does not work. Just sayin. I watch movies to be entertained by stories and characters.

      • @Kofi

        I think I have to address this exact response every time the topic comes up. I don’t need “realism” either, I just need “believability.” Meaning, yes, we all know it’s fiction, but that doesn’t mean it has to be stretched to the point where it’s not even believable. I like to be immersed in my entertainment, meaning I like to get immersed in the movies I watch and immersed in the games I play. When things stick out like a sore thumb to where it’s more distracting than immersive, it takes me out of the movie and I end up not enjoying it. It also depends on the movie’s intent. If a movie is intentionally campy and cheesy for the fun factor like Expendables 2, then it’s a different expectation. But if it’s like The Hurt Locker that tried to portray itself as an “authentic” portrayal of military life in Iraq, and it falls WAY short, I am unable to just be like “oh, it’s entertainment, who cares that all of the dramatic moments feel completely forced and contrived.” Maybe you can, but I can’t do that…

    • That’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it. Obviously others disagree. Doesn’t make one person right and the other wrong. It won the Oscar so it’s obviously decent to some people.

      • @Ben

        Sorry, but me not liking the movie is an opinion. It not being authentic or believable when compared to the real deal, that’s a fact…

    • So what is a realistic war movie, in your opinion? And how many have been made (at least recently), that live up to the expectations of people with military service?

      • @Matt

        Well, unfortunately there haven’t really been a lot of realistic war movies, but Black Hawk Down definitely comes to mind. Another movie comes to mind, while the movie as a whole is pretty unrealistic, it captures very realistic moments and the more heroic contributions by individual troops. Yes it’s biased, but it does show the untold side of the story since other movies love to paint the military like a bunch of blow-hards that thinks killing people is fun, but the movie I’m talking about is Act of Valor. The acting was bad, but the action was amazing.

        My main beef with The Hurt Locker is how many critics praised it as such an “authentic” war movie, like those armchair warriors would know what is and what isn’t… And not to mention it did have a pretty negative undertone about the military, and that’s something else I won’t tolerate…

        • I loved Black Hawk Down. I figured that would be the go to response. I never really though that Act of Valor was all that realistic in the action scenes. It was more grounded than, say, the Expendables 2, but I never bought it as a realistic portrayal. I though the Battle Los Angeles did a good job is showing a realistic squad dynamic and action scenes, even though the movie’s premise was divorced from reality.

          I don’t get your beef with the Hurt Locker. I thought it was riveting and a fascinating portrayal of men (at least a certain type of men) in the stress of war. Sure, it stretched belief in a few scenes, wandering off alone, and then splitting up, in the darkness after the bus bombing was unbelievable.

          I didn’t see the negative undertones. There really wasn’t a larger commentary about the military in the movie. Each character had such different motivations. Everyone but Renner acted professionally and ‘normally.’ Renner’s character was obviously changed by his experiences, but it wasn’t an indictment of the military. It was more an indictment of how military service changes men.

          • @Matt

            The movie portrayed military men as “cowboys” or mere adrenaline junkies. Especially the scene where Renner’s character defies his direct orders by his superior and instead of being reprimanded, an officer walks up and comments that he’s a cowboy and he likes that and basically congratulates him for being reckless and defiant of his chain of command… And I’m sorry, but that sniper scene was the most absurd scene I’ve ever seen in any movie… And that scene with the guy running a military road block was so contrived to be suspenseful I rolled my eyes at it. Trust me, I didn’t go into that movie trying to hate it. I actually watched it because I heard so many good things about it so I actually was open to it being good, but ultimately I walked out of there feeling like I just got robbed…

            And I agree with Battle Los Angeles. Totally forgot about that. If you take away the aliens, it was actually quite realistic, from them setting up a FOB to the way they moved as a squad, stacking up, etc… I liked that too… But wouldn’t really have mentioned it since it was ultimately a sci-fi movie with aliens…

  13. I think it was a little early for this movie.

  14. I just saw the movie and thought it was good. What kept it from being great was that there should’ve been some introductory development of the lead prior to her first “introduction”, just to give the viewer some feel and maybe some background into her particular drive. Also, and I thought that this was a huge faux pas….the fact that the messenger was driving a white SUV, which was supposed to be rare in those parts; I mean, with all the measures they took, one might think that they would realize something so elementary and use a car that would blend in better. And the casting of James Gandolfini was a hideous error, IMO, because who needs to see Tony freaking Soprano in the middle of all this to be a cross-medias distraction? My rating is around a 3.7; very entertaining, but expect these annoyances.

  15. I’m not trying to be picky but it did anyone else think that at the end the Seals moved slowly when taking down the compound? I would have thought it would have been much faster. Just curious if anyone else thought that.

    • yes i did.. and very loud.. thought seals are all about stealth..

      then again, its a movie.. right.. ;)

    • @Brian

      Most likely Bigelow’s typical sacrificing authenticity for contrived drama and tense moments. Yes, in real life operations like that have to be FAST, so you can move through the compound from beginning to end without the occupants can prepare to react…

    • They have a saying for that: slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

    • (Brian, I fully agree with this. I think KB hammed it. Below, what I posted my review after seeing it yesterday in another website.)

      —————-
      just saw ZDT. high expectations, disappointed. KB kind a blew it overall for me. The most famous action in modern history and it did not deliver. KB is certainly talented to get this done, but now i feel other directors could have done a better job.

      the raid picturization itself (scenes coming finally after a lo…ng wait) fell short despite the slickness of what was dramatization of a factual and well known historical event. Cinematically I wondered if other directors could have done a better job overall. KB was perhaps sticking to the “true facts given to her from unprecedented access to the CIA” (whatever we are to think of that) …but in trying to depict ST6 as the elite of military teams, yet having a human side etc… she really fell short….example one marine says in a stupor …”i killed a guy on the 3rd floor…” to show how he comes to grips with his place in history…. did’nt work for me. some of the radio chatter is inane right during the raid, too many explosives planting scenes, the fact that there were more than 2 helos that night, but it was quite disorienting as to where they all were relative to the raid target, marine movement around the building during the raid was shown appearing very haphazard/perhaps the editing), to the extent for me the tension was rapidly deflating towards the middle of it all, and left me with an impression they were going in – quite heavy handedly – to get a low level target not OBL. Almost like a police ATF type david koresh raid I thought KB hammed much of it.

      [Watching the raid scene in the movie rekindled the lingering real life questions of the event when it happened: How much of what we have been told, and now shown on movie and documentary format, is really true? For example, 2 helos (plus a few more) landed in a paki town one mile from Paki Military Academy (Paki's "West Point") so close to a garrison making loud noises and explosions for 45 minutes without any detection/response, esp if Pakis actually knew where OBL was. Granted helos approached undetected by radar due to their special nature, but landing noisily just one mile away from the garrison on a quiet night should make such a huge racket, especially to military ears?

      This brings up an obvious but most important counter question -- one that potentially *defeats the whole Maya premise* -- did Pakis give OBL away to the USA, being done with him? Is that why so much brazen action that night so close to the paki garrisons went strangely unresponded?

      Another one: OBL must have heard the helos landing right on his head. That is too much on a quiet night, yet it took many minutes -- more than 15, to reach the 3rd floor. was OBL shitting bricks waiting? what is the possible scenarios here? there are those theorists who still hang on to "this whole raid a setup" (ie OBL dead long ago) Most of us, me included believe they got OBL that night, but .....its strange that events are shown moving at a pace such that the target is simply waiting for the marines to come kill him.Very much possible, but strange to think through]

      As for Maya’s depiction as a one dimensional personality i had no issues with that – driven humans are like that sometimes, and then they move on. I did not like though KB pumping this character up so garishly …in the last scene she gets on a military transport plane, and the dialog gloats how she is the only passenger etc. and then the stupid question – she being asked ” so where are you going”. Really! like a cab driver asking? And they show Maya speechless as if her life is now directionless and empty….A shoddy attempt to pump up the hero out of Maya, and endear her to the viewer after her great achievement. .sorry KB, what were you thinking.

      I wonder this movie should have been given to someone else to direct.

      I have’nt seen Hurt Locker or the NatGeo docudrama, but now i will see both.

      Too many F and MF words. We are sure these are used commonly and frequently even in the highlevel meetings but cinematically too many.

      Also the meeting where the boss yells at the room full of people saying its been so many years nothing to show for the money spent so do your jobs….that scene did not work.

      Also i am not sure what Maya really did to get OBL. At one point Leon Panetta sits with her at the cafateria and cozies up to her. Unnecessary scene , possibly to convey she is now suddenly “the” one to get OBL for them. etc. Really KB is trying hard to create a hero out of her for some reason, but getting OBL COULD not have been a one man /woman thing, clearly an attempt to cinematically pump Maya up.

      So KB does things for cinematic reasons at the wrong times, while not using cinematic reasons to make some scenes better. I did see many people liked the movie, and Rotten Tomatoes mostly had favorable reviews, but I agree with the unfavorable ones for the movie’e handling and delivery but i still saw it for the fact that we all rejoice the ending of the most despicable enemy of the USA and want to see it on the screen ourselves.

      Read more: http://filmdrunk.uproxx.com/2013/01/zero-dark-thirty-review-bigelow-punted#ixzz2Hxhq9cfz

  16. You can tell if a movie is effective when the reviewers talk about its content (here that would be politics) rather than the film. Set aside your views for a minute and talk about the film if you want to call it a review. I believe your rating (Kofi) was extremely generous. Here is an experiment for all who watch it. A day or two later, try and recount what happened in the movie and name more than one character (OSB not included). Doubt you’ll be able to. It tells the story, but it tells it a bit like grandpa would at thanksgiving. The dialog is muddled, timing feels awkward, but respect for old gramps makes you try real hard. This movie pays a little tribute to those who made it happen and regardless of its film-making flaws makes us think about the humanity involved in ideologies and their potential violence. Technically: Disconnected but impressive to view cinematically. Story: Muddy. Had we not known the history having gone through it ourselves, this film might not make much sense. Acting: Outstanding and carries this thing. Characters: There really weren’t any (not even Maya). More like mouthpieces trying to carry a timeline along. Except for Dan (Clarke), he was almost a character… then he disappeared. History and Accuracy: Medium-Well. Seal’s book is better, I think. Could have used a little more patriotism – again, my opinion. A worthy matinee, for sure.

  17. sorry but basically ZDT is a 160 minute version of Law and Order, not a very good movie at all.
    overacted
    poorly paced
    too long (and I usually love long movies)

  18. I’m a bit surprised at the positive response to this movie. I saw it last night and felt it very hard to sit through. The acting wasn’t anything special and the movie had serious pacing issues. The dialogue I felt wasn’t strong enough to carry the movie along and lacked any suspense or action. The only part I enjoyed was the beginning with Jason Clarke being the standout performance. The interrogation was gruesome and at times a bit hard to watch but his performance kept my attention. Also the action at the end was sub par with all the slow walking and blowing up doors for such a secret and stealthy mission.

    • To add to my comment, this was the worst movie I have seen in a while

  19. one of the most overrated movies I have ever seen.. the movie was OK, I’d give it a C+ or B-.. Jessica Chastain, I know she is a good actress but she was very average in this movie.. she barely had any dialogue so im not sure why she got an oscar nod for this performance.. i think this movie could have been way better than it was.. i think they spent too much time on some of the torture scenes.. i was aware of all the events that led up to the capture of UBL .. i think if they had spent less time on the torture scenes and more time on some of the other events it could have been more exciting…

  20. Great movie, just too long!

  21. :spoilers:: Maybe anyways, I was pissed they didnt show Osama at the end of the movie! I went to this movie thinking I was going to get to see that sorry ass get smoked and I left feeling cheated! I liked the movie ok but I think its overrated. I thought I was going to walk out of the theater blown away and shaken emotionally but it fell short on every count for me. Again I liked the movie just not as much as I had hoped.

    How long til everyone start floating Jessica Chastain’s name for the female lead in every big movie?

    • Frankly i did not want to see that a**ole’s face even in this movie… but i completely understand your disappointment, i felt the same thing about the other Oscar nominated movie — Lincoln. Spielberg for some reason did not want to show Lincoln’s “getting shot”. Just for that alone Spielberg should not have been nominated — to think he gets to mess with a historical and taking the viewers till the end only to switch the lights off on history — the whole movie felt deflated and incomplete at that point. Why the director had to interject into history and decide to not show it is beyond me. Does he think it distracts Lincoln’s greatness? We already know the facts. We can handle the greatness of Lincoln along with the manner of his passing, ie., that he did get shot point blank. That would have made everything authentic. Now we are left with the distracted feeling about the director’s personal thoughts. There is nothing to hide and we are not kids! DDL and TLJ made my $5 worth it all in the end.

      • So may complaints about this movie fall right in line with your complaint about Lincoln. This movie was not about the raid. It actually started out being about the failed hunt for Osama. Obviously, after he was killed, it would have been pointless to make it about a failed hunt for the man who was just killed. Similarly, Lincoln is not about slavery or the Civil War, it is about passing the 13th Amendment in the House of Representatives.

        The ‘money shot’ whether it was OBL or Lincoln, wasn’t needed. What was important was the reaction to what happened. The Special Forces who executed the raid were, and are, nameless and faceless instruments of our military might. Incredibly heroic, very well trained and highly specialized, and courageous beyond reasonable measure, but this movie is not about them. I liked that they did not have back stories. It didn’t bother me that we didn’t get 5 soldiers standing over Osama exchanging high 5s. We did get a partial view of his corpse back at the base, just as we saw Lincoln lying in his bed as he is pronounced dead. When we did get with the raid is the fact that after the primary target went down, the team immediately switched to the secondary goal of intelligence gathering. I image there was a bit more hand slapping, but I also expect that the team shifted into this secondary goal professionally and rapidly.

        • Matt,
          I do see your points and how you took these 2 movies in. It was not a money shot i was looking for (as if, what you categorize as “money shot” should be hidden to push a larger message.) History is history with all the blood.

          Look, expectations were set — it was “Lincoln”, not “13th amendment” . It was ZDT (OBL) not “the long hunt for OBL”. Why not do it 100%? Why should that be characterized as a “money shot” scene?

          Looks like you would have felt odd to see those scenes openly presented, while i felt incomplete without them, while both of us “got it”.

          • I don’t think that in either case, the pivotal scene of bloodshed was needed or unneeded. The filmmakers made similar choices, and I do not think that in either case it diminishes the film. I do think that both movies suffered from the marketing drive and expectations of what the stories should have been about. I know with ZDT, the original ads were more geared toward the hunt for Osama, while the recent ads are more focused on the raid. I think this does the movie a disservice.

            I have talked to more than a few friends and have told them that if they want to see a movie about the push for the 13th Amendment in the House of Representatives, go see Lincoln. If they want to see a movie about slavery, go see Django. With this movie, you should go in expecting a procedural drama about CIA analysts, with some action at the end. If you want to see a movie about special forces, this is not the film for you. Go rent Black Hawk Down instead.

            • Well you are honest and up front to set those expectations for those you know who are yet to see these 2 films. For you and me its already past that. Two top the line directors injecting themselves rather rudely (for me and my $5 each) in the end, on historicals that are made up of well known events to start with.

              Marketing wise, the filmmakers did what they wanted and the marketers took over – ie, had it ‘both ways’.

      • @RaMJet

        Off topic, but you ought to be ashamed of yourself.
        You’re disappointed because Speilberg didn’t show Lincoln actually getting shot?

        For shame. Sadly, reading your post, and the way you continue down that rabbit hole saddens me.

        The way SS depicted the late President’s death was tasteful.
        Also the way KB went out of her way to avoid a direct / gory close up of OBL was not only tasteful, but thoughtfully anti-inflammatory.

        Think before you post.

        • wow, man, please put your weapon away. History is history. I liked your rabbit hole (war) analogy, but i don’t agree you want to make my take appear blood thirsty. If you found the depiction of Lincon’s death ‘tasteful’ (interesting choice of word) I have no issue with that either. These are movie critiques and opinions, live and let live.

  22. I dont know….I found ZDT really flat. Not able to connect with it.

    Besides, I read almost every book about the topic and was disappointed that such a pivotal moment in U.S. history was not on point.

  23. As someone who joined the Army before 9-11 & served through the twin towers attack all the way to 3 tours of duty in Iraq…this was a really moving movie. So much so that I was clapping at the end. I thought the Seals were Portrayed extremely accurate (as someone whose spent much time around special ops) overall the movie was great & I put it up their with Black Hawk Down & The Hurt Locker.

  24. this was soooo slow and boring. but better than argo

  25. It was just american propaganda. Not even entertaining propaganda but nonsense.

    If creating a film about a emotionally charged event then use passion with it. Use the real history. Stop the flag waving and tell a story from a perspective that respects the viewers intelligence. Instead this movie is on the same level as Gi Jane.