Zero Dark Thirty

Film

Thrillers

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Dec 4 2012

In 20 years time, when we look back at the ‘War on Terror’, I wonder if we’ll half-remember it through the filter of two war movies by director Kathryn Bigelow and reporter-turned-screenwriter Mark Boal? Their 2009 Oscar-winner ‘The Hurt Locker’ followed a bomb disposal unit in Iraq. Now they’ve made this sidekick – a gritty, unbelievably tense procedural about the decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden. These are action films for people who think action movies are dumb: they put us thrillingly on the inside of history (at least it feels that way) and grip in their journalistic detail.

‘Zero Dark Thirty’ makes ‘Homeland’ look as dangerous as ‘Downton Abbey’. It begins, heartbreakingly, on 9/11. The screen is black and we hear the voice of a woman inside one of the towers – on the phone to the emergency services. She knows she’s going to die. The operator is trained to deal with worst-case scenarios, but what can she say? Two planes have flown into New York’s iconic skyscrapers. All the rules have been broken.

Then… bang. The action shifts to Pakistan where a fresh-faced CIA agent, Maya (Jessica Chastain), is having a lesson in interrogation. She watches a colleague negotiate with an al-Qaida operative: give me an email address and I’ll give you food. Next, torture: dog collars, waterboarding, sleep deprivation and one line, repeated over and over, ‘When you lie to me, I hurt you.’

Maya is horrified. You assume she’s going to be the voice of America’s conscience (after all, Chastain is the actress who played the dreamy earth-mother in ‘The Tree of Life’). But, no, six months later, she is using the same lines, making the same trades. There’s chemistry between Maya and her CIA boss, but this isn’t a movie where the girl gets the guy; this is the movie where she gets the ‘Big Guy’ – a nickname for Bin Laden.

‘Zero Dark Thirty’ is lean, mean storytelling: no backstories, no-frills – just action and an effortless forward momentum. Maya is obsessed with tracking down one of her leads: a man said to be Bin Laden’s courier. Some might think Bigelow is apologising for torture with this film. She’s not. She’s interested in why Maya and her CIA colleagues behave as they do – with the detachment of a reporter. We see the desperate context they work in – the tick, tick, tick wait for more bombs to go off around the world. Years pass. We watch a pile-up of dead-ends and mistakes.

Boal spent the best part of a decade talking to counterterrorism operatives, and it shows in his faultless dialogue. At CIA headquarters, they question Maya’s credibility. ‘What do you think of her?’, asks the CIA director (James Gandolfini). ‘She’s smart,’ answers an advisor. ‘We’re all smart,’ he deadpans. It’s 2010, and some analysts doubt Bin Laden is still the game, or perhaps he’s dead. Bigelow is the smartest guy in the room when it comes to portraying tribes: from the CIA wonks to the big, suicidally brave knucklehead Navy Seals sent in to take out Bin Laden, all barrel chests on the outside, mushy-sweet on the inside.

The endgame – a raid on a suburban house in Pakistan – is a white-knuckle watch. And when a Seal finally puts a bullet into a thin, grey-bearded man, you don’t doubt for a second this is what it was like: dogs barking, freaked-out locals raising a mob outside. This is an instant classic.

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Release details

UK release:

Fri Jan 25, 2013

Cast and crew

Director:

Kathryn Bigelow

Cast:

Chris Pratt, Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:7
  • 4 star:5
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|24
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Robert

This will without doubt be one of the best films of the year. Very well acted, directed and written, the film was gripping from beginning to end, despite knowing what the outcome was going to be. This was a long film, but it could have carried on much longer as far as I was concerned. This is what film going should be all about. It has been on for some time, but if you have not seen it, do so before it disappears.

Robert

This will without doubt be one of the best films of the year. Very well acted, directed and written, the film was gripping from beginning to end, despite knowing what the outcome was going to be. This was a long film, but it could have carried on much longer as far as I was concerned. This is what film going should be all about. It has been on for some time, but if you have not seen it, do so before it disappears.

critique

Impressively mounted procedural. I`d love to know precisely how much of it is true.

Jo

Overly hyped film with a completely unbelievable female central character. Despite wanting to love it, I was thrown out of the suspension of disbelief by the obvious flag waving propaganda machine: God bless America and all that crap. Unfortunately Homeland does this story so much better, with more gripping and interesting characters. Ultimately this was a drama doc too loose with the facts to be useful and too unimaginative to be compelling drama.

MikeT

I loved "Hurt Locker", so it feels like I've been waiting ages for "Zero Dark Thirty" to come out in the UK. What a disappointment. Though a good story, good acting, and great photography, it doesn't compare to HL. Yes, I'd recommend this film, but would always add that it's not up to "Hurt Locker" standards - I don't think this will sweep the boards at the Oscars - I can't see ZDT getting 6 or more Oscars.

sapiensapiens

5 stars ??? this is b-category movie, and it's a terrible zio-nato propaganda about killing a boogie man. Avoid it at any cost!

Paul

A rare five stars because the film held me throughout, entertained me and made me think about the issues it raised from a new perspective. Certainly a film of two halves first of interrogations leading to an probable inconclusive ending then suddenly shifting a gear when a courier gets identified. The second half really gripped me, Bourne style, and by the end i wanted to vote for Obama too. There are some things to criticise, but these are minor really considering the silliness that exists in other films with singing or tigers. I really wasn't expecting Tony Soprano to turn up in a suit inside the CIA so really had to suspect disbelief at that point. But this is a grown-up film for grown-ups that tries hard to avoid the clichés. Go see.

Paul

A rare five stars because the film held me throughout, entertained me and made me think about the issues it raised from a new perspective. Certainly a film of two halves first of interrogations leading to an probable inconclusive ending then suddenly shifting a gear when a courier gets identified. The second half really gripped me, Bourne style, and by the end i wanted to vote for Obama too. There are some things to criticise, but these are minor really considering the silliness that exists in other films with singing or tigers. I really wasn't expecting Tony Soprano to turn up in a suit inside the CIA so really had to suspect disbelief at that point. But this is a grown-up film for grown-ups that tries hard to avoid the clichés. Go see.

AriesatLarge

If such a thing as nice torture would exist, then that's what you'll see at the beginning of the film. In real life, tourture is atrocious and most inhuman. That said, Zero Dark Thirty is a well made gripping movie, albeit a predictable one. Jessica Chastain acting is good but seems a bit fictitious or maybe she's just a fanatic American. Recommendable but not a must see film in my opinion.

scrumpyjack

If you keep (reasonably) up with current affairs you may find 20 min of this could have easily been cut. If you have no interest in current affairs, you WILL find all but the final, ASTONISHING last 40 or so minutes could go! I'm the former so while this is very fine, I cant honestly say it's excellent...and the silly daily red pen writing on glass sequence - followed by Chastain snorting and snarling like a 4 year old brat - was just awfully misjudged. 7+/10

Justin Berkovi

I love Bigelow and was really looking forward to this. However, Zero Dark Thirty is flawed and I left feeling frustrated with various elements. The main problem is Chastain. Whilst one of my favourite actresses at the moment she was completely unconvincing as Maya. She seemed to struggle with the role and moments of 'aggression' in her dialogue scenes came across as extremely forced and decidedly amateurish for an actress of her calibre. This then was undermined what was for the most part a good film. There were other moments where Bigelow's usual mastery faltered. Some scenes were too drawn out, the editing sloppy and the tension (Something I usually see as a Bigelow forte) weak. These flaws made certain aspects of the film seem dumbed down. However what redeems the film in terms of enjoyment is the final twenty minutes or so. Superb tension and dramatisation of the actual raid on Bin Laden. Whereas Hurt Locker was a tight, tense film unfortunately Zero Dark Thirty is a bit sloppy and weaker for it.

chris jackson

it took a while to get going and showed the american government and CIA in appalling light , wow did i dislike MAya by the end.. that having been said it is very well made and doesnt set out to show america s the good guys. All very grey but so exciting . Amazing film

chris jackson

it took a while to get going and showed the american government and CIA in appalling light , wow did i dislike MAya by the end.. that having been said it is very well made and doesnt set out to show america s the good guys. All very grey but so exciting . Amazing film

Ian

What's to say? We all know the end of the story but despite that I found it rivetting. Chastain is excellent and fully deserves to be favourite for best actress on this performance. In my mind it is much better than Lincoln and of the nominees I have seen thus far is the most deserving to win the Best Film oscar. It is a bit long and in places does veer a little too close to cliche to be a great film. A good four star film not a five star for me.

ARCHGATE

Agree with Mr O'Sullivan's comment about Ms Chastain's performance. The torture scenes are not so graphic as to make them unwatchable. Once these scenes are out of the way, the film becomes a chase movie, without any characterisation - mainly because American politicians are very boring to the point of being robots. The mid-section where they zero-in on the "messenger" is gripping, using handheld sat-nav trackers. This part resembles the Bourne movies, The last section is the actual raid, seemingly filmed in graphite. It is in this section that Bigelow excels in her cold-eyed version of what happened. This is blistering film making which places the viewer straight into the action. The executions are cold and without any patriotic chest-thumping. The score accompanying this is perfect. This is a five star film, despite the questionable casting of Gandalfini and John Barrowman (tiny part). Chastain delivers the best line in a film for many a year "I'm the motherfucker that found him".

ARCHGATE

Agree with Mr O'Sullivan's comment about Ms Chastain's performance. The torture scenes are not so graphic as to make them unwatchable. Once these scenes are out of the way, the film becomes a chase movie, without any characterisation - mainly because American politicians are very boring to the point of being robots. The mid-section where they zero-in on the "messenger" is gripping, using handheld sat-nav trackers. This part resembles the Bourne movies, The last section is the actual raid, seemingly filmed in graphite. It is in this section that Bigelow excels in her cold-eyed version of what happened. This is blistering film making which places the viewer straight into the action. The executions are cold and without any patriotic chest-thumping. The score accompanying this is perfect. This is a five star film, despite the questionable casting of Gandalfini and John Barrowman (tiny part). Chastain delivers the best line in a film for many a year "I'm the motherfucker that found him".

DutchMovieLover

I caught one of the very first showings in Amsterdam this Wednesday evening (it will officially start running throughout the Netherlands this Thursday 24th January 2013). I was most impressed by the atmosphere in this film being created by Kathryn Bigelow and her whole team. One could really feel that one was in Pakistan (while the movie was mostly shot in Jordan) for example. Jessica Chastian gave a truly amazing Oscar-deserving performance as the CIA-agent who finally solved the mystery of where Osama Bin Laden actually was. I found the various torture scenes a little bit too gruesome to watch though at times but that was apparently what actually happened when George W. Bush Jr. was still the president of the United States even if the CIA apparently tried to deny it recently. This movie would be a big succes in the U.K. and on the European continent, I think, as this is a movie which is based on one of the most important periods of our modern history, starting from September 11, 2001. This is really a must-see film for all movie fans everywhere as far as I am concerned.

DutchMovieLover

I caught one of the very first showings in Amsterdam this Wednesday evening (it will officially start running throughout the Netherlands this Thursday 24th January 2013). I was most impressed by the atmosphere in this film being created by Kathryn Bigelow and her whole team. One could really feel that one was in Pakistan (while the movie was mostly shot in Jordan) for example. Jessica Chastian gave a truly amazing Oscar-deserving performance as the CIA-agent who finally solved the mystery of where Osama Bin Laden actually was. I found the various torture scenes a little bit too gruesome to watch though at times but that was apparently what actually happened when George W. Bush Jr. was still the president of the United States even if the CIA apparently tried to deny it recently. This movie would be a big succes in the U.K. and on the European continent, I think, as this is a movie which is based on one of the most important periods of our modern history, starting from September 11, 2001. This is really a must-see film for all movie fans everywhere as far as I am concerned.

J O SULLIVAN

OK but not great ... overlong and the ending was like watching a video game Chastain is the film .. how she constructed a performance from so little is genius Better watching Munich and Standard Operating Procedure for a bit of insight and depth

ian

i didn't quite see the point of making this film. even if you lived on mars you would have heard about the outcome so once they have found the compound where he lives the story is kind of over. the whole lead up to that wasn't even very interesting & despite this completely obsessed woman spending all these years on this one job (& hardly ageing) the whole case actually hinged on a new secretary finding a file behind the fridge.

Becky the Badger

The dog hitched a ride to Bombay. He's a Bollywood star now. Developed a bad coke habit, but otherwise he's doing fine.

Becky the Badger

The dog hitched a ride to Bombay. He's a Bollywood star now. Developed a bad coke habit, but otherwise he's doing fine.