2010s Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Published on January 11th, 2013 | by Chris


Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Movie directed by:
Kathryn Bigelow

Reviewed by:
On January 11, 2013
Last modified:January 25, 2013


The hunt for Osama should have been a bit more of an emotional and suspenseful journey, instead of the mechanical checklist of events presented here. I didn't "feel it" when I should have, and that's not good enough.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)Is Zero Dark Thirty a war movie?  I was hoping it would turn out to be that way, but alas, I'm afraid I just can't place it in this particular genre.  I'd have to say it falls somewhere between a "docu-drama", a typical "intrigue" picture, and maybe, possibly, at the end, something slightly resembling a war movie.

I'll approach this a little backwards this time, and throw my final verdict out first.  I frankly didn't find Zero Dark Thirty all that it was hyped up to be.  Maybe I've seen one too many war-movie scenes of violence, but the story played out like this to me:  Somebody gets tortured, (sorry, questioned) there is much head scratching, arguing, and wailing about it, lather rinse, repeat, and then there's a mission and a body bag.  OK, so throw in a couple of suicide bombers at regular intervals to keep things interesting and that's about it, really.

I definitely caught the same "vibe" from Bigelow here as in The Hurt Locker (I will have to go rewatch this and finally review it).  That sort of "unspoken" dialogue that is there, is also present here.  Unfortunately I didn't find it saying much to me.  Jessica Chastain as "Maya", the dedicated analyst only seemed to either be pensive, or various levels of pissed off, never straying much from that.  Ditto pretty much everyone else, except for the prisoners who appear reasonably scared-shitless under duress.  Joel Edgerton's role as one of the SEAL team... well, I really didn't see the point to be honest, other than to put a somewhat familiar face to movie-goers in one of the chopper seats.  "Dan" (Jason Clarke) just wasn't scary or intimidating enough for me, either, as the CIA "bad guy."

As for the controversy surrounding the "torture" scenes, I don't have a lot to say.  I'll just say that I know this sort of thing happens, that it has gone on for a long time, and that I really don't need to know that it happens.  That's how it works.  We all sleep quite soundly every night, with that thought buried deep in the back of our brains, but we don't bring it out.  There are people whose job it is to do things that are universally considered "not nice."  If you're shocked by this fact, you need to come out of whatever bubble you're in and look around.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Moving on to the "money shot" of the movie, the raid on the compound....  I'm torn I guess.  What may be based on reality (and whether you actually believe everything went down this way is another matter) doesn't necessarily make for great film.  It felt pretty clinical.  I was more "at the edge of my seat" during the scene with the car and the field agent than during the final battle.  Which was pretty bloody one sided.  Like I said, it may have went down like this, but I never "felt" it.  If anything I felt like I was watching an episode of COPS or something.

Making the inevitably comparison to The Hurt Locker, (and yes these are two entirely different films) I think that there was a great attempt to duplicate some of the "feel" from that, maybe it wasn't intentional and that's just Bigelow's style.  If so, I don't think it worked so well here.  Is it Oscar worthy?  I certainly don't think so.  Not at all.  Not in any respect, actually.  But then I'm not involved in all of that, which is probably a good thing.  It also makes the 157 minute runtime seem quite a bit longer.

Would I recommend you run out and see it this weekend?  I'm going to say no.  Unless you really like the methodical intrigue and docu-drama style of film.    Sometimes it works great (think Tinker Tailor...), if you can supply a decent level of suspense and tension, but here, it just wasn't there for me.  I'm sure others will disagree.  I will give Zero Dark Thirty a solid 6/10.  I just didn't feel it.  It's definitely not a "war movie" per se.

Link: Zero Dark Thirty at IMDB
Link: Zero Dark Thirty official website

Zero Dark Thirty (2012) Chris

Summary: The hunt for Osama should have been a bit more of an emotional and suspenseful journey, instead of the mechanical checklist of events presented here. I didn't "feel it" when I should have, and that's not good enough.


User Rating: 2 (1 votes)

About the Author

I’ve been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I’ve been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.

2 Responses to Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

  1. the war movie buff says:

    Disagree! See my review. You went off the track immediately when you were expecting an “Act of Valor” style war movie. It appears that effected your review.

  2. Chris says:

    Agree to Disagree 😀 I was not expecting AoV at all (really?) … but I think you summed up my feelings on this yourself.

    “No Americans are villains. It does take to task the risk-averse, but they are portrayed as simply too careful. Then again, Maya is portrayed as an obsessed bitch.”

    That’s about it, really. The waffling and “well gee I uh I dunno” bullshit on behalf of the CIA was frustrating to be sure, but in my mind that’s where the real problem lies (past AND present tense) and it isn’t demonized enough. I was hoping for a bit more “this should have happened years ago” and a little less of what it was, which like I said, amounted to swapping back and forth between some “you will be shocked now, OK?” interrogations and Maya’s “can we now, please, huh can we? How about now? Let me write on the window again!” schtick.

    *Shrug* Agree to disagree. I thought this “style” worked well in THL (which I still have to review even though I own the bloody thing) where we were going inside someone’s head, but not here.

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