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7/10
High quality (little action) and realistic depiction of the hunt for Bin Laden
DopamineNL17 December 2013
It's not an action flick, it's a thriller. About a tough CIA-chick who has a hunch about a guy who might eventually lead them to Osama Bin Laden. It takes her almost 10 years, a little waterboarding, a couple of dead colleagues and a lot of arguing with her superiors, but she manages to follow the lead all the way to the now famous raid in Abbottabad.

It's a very captivating film (even with its 160 minutes runtime), and the big raid at the end is quite intense and realistic. That said, Bigelow's previous 'The Hurt Locker' was (even) better. But it's close!

As for the controversy whether the film is 'pro-torture propaganda' or not: it shows what (likely) happened. A very unpleasant sight for Americans, sure, but that's no reason to leave it out. Whether or not 'OBL' would've been caught without the use of torture is speculation that has no place in this movie (it's a depiction of events, not a moral study).

Some Americans might still find it hard to watch a movie that requires you to form your own opinion about the actions of your country/government/army, instead of getting one spoon fed by those very same institutions. But given the America's options in government- potential it seems a luxury Americans no longer have.
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5/10
Zero IQ Thirty
askarali4 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I totally agree with the blog posted on Dawn.com regarding this movie by Nadeem F. Paracha.

Zero Dark Thirty', was quite an experience. Though sharp in its production and direction and largely accurate in depicting the events that led to the death of Osama Bin Laden, it went ballistic bad in depicting everyday life on the streets of Pakistan.

With millions of dollars at their disposal, I wonder why the makers of this film couldn't hire even a most basic adviser to inform them that

1: Pakistanis speak Urdu, English and other regional languages and NOT Arabic;

2: Pakistani men do not go around wearing 17th and 18th century headgear in markets;

3: The only Urdu heard in the film is from a group of wild-eyed men protesting against an American diplomat, calling him 'chor.' Chor in Urdu means robber. And the protest rally was against US drone strikes. How did that make the diplomat a chor?

4: And how on earth was a green Mercedes packed with armed men parked only a few feet away from the US embassy in Islamabad? Haven't the producers ever heard of an area called the Diplomatic Enclave in Islamabad? Even a squirrel these days has to run around for a permit to enter and climb trees in that particular area.

I can go on.
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1/10
Lazy and boring filmmaking
analyzepk14 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I want to thank Kate B for adding to my knowledge. Really. I had no idea that Abbottabad was an Arabic-speaking city where most of the world's camels come to take a nap as the dunes of the desert silhouette them against the setting sun.

After about the fifteenth person yells "Yalla! Aimshee!" you begin to wonder: couldn't they just have Wikipedia'd this stuff? It's written on that website that the national language of Pakistan is Urdu, right? Especially if one is to make a movie about an event a couple of years after it transpired, surely a little Googling would help? It's an error so enormous that it made me think, "If they got that wrong, why should I believe they got anything right?" It's grossly insulting and reminds me that one should never rely on others to represent oneself.

"You don't understand Pakistan!" White Chick screams at her supervisor at one point. And you do? I wanted to ask. You, who just said "shukran" at a "bar" at the Marriot Hotel after you were served wine in a margarita glass? Overall disappointed with Kate B's lack of effort in representing such recent events in a realistic manner. Another edifice to lazy filmmaking and needless hype.
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7/10
Technically Impressive but Surprisingly Hollow
Danusha_Goska11 January 2013
"Zero Dark Thirty" is a grim, clinical depiction of the CIA search for Osama bin Laden. Its strongest feature is its dramatization of the Navy Seal Team 6 operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that killed bin Laden. That sequence is so professionally shot it could be actual documentary footage.

"Zero" has no real plot. Episodic scenes occur in a choppy manner, one after the other. Scenes consist of depictions of beating and water boarding of detainees in order to gather information, agents stalking a suspect in Pakistan's crowded, chaotic bazaars, terrorist bombings, assassinations and assassination attempts. There are also scenes in offices where characters stare intently at computer screens or interrogation videos, and characters yell at each other and use obscenities, as their frustrating hunt for Osama bin Laden wears them down.

"Zero" makes no attempt to draw the viewer in with any human sentiment. Characters are given no backstory and no character arch. CIA agent Maya, played by Jessica Chastain, is the closest the film has to a main character. She reveals no affect. Her face is blank. She isn't so much robotic as inert. We know nothing about her, except that she was recruited to the CIA while in high school – we are never told what would draw the CIA to a high school student. I didn't care about this character at all. All I kept thinking was, "Jessica Chastain is being praised for *this* performance? Why?" The dullness of her performance, and the underwritten character, made it almost impossible for me to lose myself in the story, such as it was.

Jason Clarke is very strong and charismatic as Dan, a CIA interrogator. Dan humiliates, beats, and water boards suspects, and then feeds them delicious meals of hummus and olives when they deliver. His depiction of his work as just another job – he could be playing a bus driver with the same amount and degree of expressiveness – is provocative. I wish I had gone to see a film built around his character and his performance.

Overall, I was disappointed in the film. Feature films are an art form. I want them to do to me what drama can do. I want to be made to identify with a character and I want, through that identification, to learn more about life, or I want to be entertained. "Zero" did neither for me. I wasn't entertained, and my understanding and worldview were not expanded. I think the same material could have been better treated in a documentary with selective re-enactments.

"Zero Dark Thirty" sidesteps key questions. Maya sacrificed years of her life to the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Dan risks his humanity by making his living beating and humiliating other men. Men, women and children throughout the Muslim world, and, as the film makes clear, in America's and Europe's cities, are eager to blow themselves up, as long as they can take some infidels with them. Why? The film doesn't even acknowledge that there are people out there asking the question, never mind attempting to suggest an answer.

The film opens with audio from the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, suggesting that the war between Islam and the non-Muslim world dates from that attack. Not so. Islam increased its territory through jihad from its invention in the seventh century until September 11, 1683, at the Battle of Vienna. After that defeat, Islam stopped its spread. The significance of the date of September 11 goes back over four centuries.

America's founding fathers had to deal with jihad; see Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary Pirates. Some argue terrorism, including the 9-11 attack, is caused by Western imperialism. The solution to these thinkers is for the Western world to be nicer to non-Western nations, to practice multiculturalism and to share the wealth. Others argue that jihad is inextricable from Islam, and that one necessary step is for the West to recognize and cherish its own unique virtues – to cherish that for which its spies, soldiers, and citizens fight, sacrifice, kill and die.

"Zero Dark Thirty" never so much as brushes up against these questions. At its key moment, the film is hollow. We all know how the hunt ends – we all know Osama bin Laden is dead. "Zero" might have addressed why Maya gave the time of her life to that hunt, why Dan risked his humanity, why Seal Team 6 trained for years and risked their lives. "Zero" never does consider why these, who might have been the film's heroes, did what they did, and I walked out of the theater oddly unmoved by all the high tension and graphic violence I'd just sat through.
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1/10
I can't believe how bad this movie is
superduperspit6 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
After watching Zero Dark Thirty I am simply amazed at the critical reception it's received. In fact it's one of the most bizarre and puzzling critical reactions I've seen since more than 60% of critics liked Spiderman III on rottentomatoes To me this is simply not a good film. In fact I wouldn't even be as kind to call it merely OK or middling. I believe it's flat out bad.

Zero Dark Thirty is the type of film that needs exceptional editing and writing to work. This is because it's about a long drawn out process mainly done by people sitting at desks. The film I imagined, if as good as its reviews, would have cracking dialog, sharp plotting, quick editing The problem with the film is that it's writing and editing is quite poor. The dialogs in this film simply do not work and undermine talented actors/actresses. The characters talked to each other at a TV movie level of depth and linguistic expression. Many scenes, including some like the infamous F bomb laden ones simply do not feel believable as happening in a professional CIA setting. Many of the arguments feel stagey and "we need you to act emotional here" outburst-y, as mentioned like they'd do in a TV movie. I suspect the screenwriter wanted to make the people feel "real" and down to earth, except it does just the opposite. The dialog makes the characters feel contrived, as if trying too hard to feel real.

SPOILER - The other problem with the script is that while I do not know the details of what really happened vs what Bigelow and co. fictionalized, many parts of the manhunt felt ridiculous. eg. There is a scene where a terrorist spills all his guts information wise just because Chastain tricked him into thinking he told him all of that the night before and had memory loss. Would he really just give up and say everything like that? There's an entirely predictable explosion/death scene prompted by a smiley CIA agent going "oh just let him into the base, we don't want to spook him by scaring him" which was ridiculously naive by a trained professional. The CIA are shown a video of a detainee saying "X character is dead, I buried him, btw here's a picture" and they all just believe it as fact without questioning whether he'd be lieing. The entire plot hinges on catching a courier who they seem to find because of a long lost picture, and some other details I didn't really catch - either way the way they caught him was very confusing and not drawn out well plotting wise. The manhunt did not come off as very complex, intelligent or plotted well to me. It felt like the characters just sat around for a decade and waited for clues to fall in their lap!

Then there's the editing. This is a long, sloppily put together film. Many of the scenes feel unnecessary. There are long, forgetting scenes of people talking. For a large portion of the film I could hardly stand to watch the dull back and forths while keeping my eyes open.

Many people have pointed out the lack of character development. This is true but I also blame the dialog most of all. Chastain is a blank terrorist catching robot and simply does not feel like a real person to me. None of them do really. This makes it harder to cheer for them. They come off as terrorist catching line delivery devices, not real people with emotions.

Zero Dark Thirty came off to me as a misfire on almost every level. It's poorly written, edited, it fails to make its characters or plot interesting. Zero Dark Thirty tries so hard to be "realistic" and "naturalistic" that it forgets it's a film. But not only does it go in that docu-drama wannabe direction but it does a very poor job of feeling realistic due to its stagey characters and dialog and clearly contrived plotting and set-ups. It neither has its cake or eats it.

This is simply a colossal misfire after the near masterpiece that is the Hurt Locker for Bigelow. I am truly shocked at how poor a film this is on every level after the critical reception to it. One of the very worst films I've seen all year
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5/10
Ehhh... seriously?
weeatphish30 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I was honestly expecting a lot more, given the multiple nominations for awards. I really thought this movie was overdone and could have been pared down by at least 45 minutes. In the end, it was just a glorified "we killed bin laden" pseudo-documentary. The character relationships never developed and seemed empty. And I didn't really find the main actress very believable or that great. Scenes of shooting dead bodies also were probably a bit too much -- overall this movie seemed overly nationalistic and simplistic without delivering much in the way of content. I thought Hurt Locker was a significantly better movie. Again, I am somewhat surprised at the number of award nominations this movie received.
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10/10
A Perfect Depiction of the UBL Saga
pwiesike15 May 2013
I'm not claiming that this movie is 100% factual or even close to it but I think the filmmaker did a brilliant job of chronicling the UBL saga. IMO the theme of the movie in a nutshell is this: We got this guy (maybe?) but at what cost and were we justified? These are not easy questions to answer and they are left open ended for the most part.

The three main criticisms I've come across in the reviews is that 1) The movie is propaganda 2) It glorifies torture and 3) It is factually inaccurate. The third is probably a legitimate criticism but the movie really makes no pretenses about being a documentary and there is a prominent disclaimer at the beginning that it is based primarily on eye-witness accounts (and it is common knowledge that those can be unreliable). Regarding the death of UBL - well the movie even leaves that open ended which is pretty consistent with the actual reported events. We only get brief blurred glimpses of the side of his face and the only definitive identification comes from the 'expert' protagonist who is clearly somewhat derailed and obsessed with the manhunt (and who also stated UBL was at that location with 100% certainty).

That leads in to the first criticism. I fail to understand how this movie can be perceived as propaganda. How does portraying a 10 year ordeal culminating in an unglamorous methodical execution style raid (in which a helicopter crashes and SEALS kill possibly innocent bystanders with machine like precision) where the target's identity is not a even a certainty even remotely constitute a biased pro American agenda? Not to mention that the whole raid is brought about by a hunch and a fluke stroke of luck and not any actual key pieces of information obtained through interrogation (other than a name). If anything luck was the deciding factor in taking down UBL - not American awesomeness.

Now the torture - How does showing torture equate to glorifying torture? Does Braveheart glorify torture too? Again - this had the opposite effect on me. The viewer is forced to confront the unpleasant reality that we tortured many detainees (probably pointlessly) in our desperation to capture UBL and bring him to justice. What was the primary motivation? Revenge? Safety? Do the ends justify the means? Essentially that's the exact question the filmmaker is posing to the viewer by exposing the torture to public scrutiny.

Perhaps this movie just rubs people the wrong way because they find it too sympathetic to government officials. It's easy to criticize to the Government and trust me I am far from an optimist when it comes to American politicians so I do it often. Obviously our leaders were faced with some difficult decisions after 9/11. Did we handle things the best way? Certainly not, but for better or worse this thing played out the way it did and we have to deal with it and move forward.
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5/10
Why on Earth should this movie deserve an Oscar?
naerayan12 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Poor screenplay, poor dialogs, extremely bad actors and some strange and disturbing way of directing for a two hour and a half movie. The film is boring, the plot is childish and Maya it seems to be a little bit psychotic. Kathryn Bigelow tried the Hurt Locker recipe once again but this time her way to shoot just couldn't make anything understandable and bearable. Sometimes steady, most of time shaky, the camera is so confusing, especially in small spaces that you don't know what the director want to say anymore....

And the script is as shallow as a B series movie...

Please don't loose your time. You'd better watch Tinke Taylor Soldier Spy or even Looper, at least you'll get entertain. Or if you want something European (because Bigelow it seem to me that she wants to copy some of the European ways to shoot images) take a look at Beyond the Hills. ;)
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5/10
Poor writing. Requires too much suspension of disbelief to pretend it is real...and slow
OriEri5 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
If this movie had been entirely fictional, I would have given it 2 stars. The importance of the story and the care taken in some parts gave it 5.

Before I excoriate, here are the good points. It tells a very important story. Our country was spending soldiers' blood and sanity and HUGE amounts of money. Getting UBL made it easier to stop. Even if he had become less relevant to Al-Qaeda as the Pakistan station chief said in the movie, he still was important to many voters.

The movie used real names and stories of persons of interest to the analysts.

The movie shows how nasty the relatively low key torture techniques that were used in the US's name are. I have no idea how realistic they were, but certainly it was not fun to watch. Hopefully it gives the viewer some sense of what they are approving or disapproving when they express their views to their elected representatives.

The raid was depicted realistically, though I am no expert. It was quiet; the soldiers weren't jumping around yelling "Hooyah" during the operation. The children and women in the house were upset and terrified and pitiable. Things went wrong and the soldiers needed workarounds. The writing did not put the analyst physically present at the raid just to add drama ( I have no doubt that was discussed and rejected.) The only complaint I have is the man who killed UBL went into a shell shocked daze afterward. I suspect after all that training, those men are VERY professional and would be working quickly and with focus to get the job done and get out.

Now the criticism: A few more subtitles and back story explanations of names when they were used, would make easier for westerners to follow the interesting paths of reasoning the analysts were following. Would have kept the brain engaged a bit more.

The movie ends up being rather slow...seriously. A few people in my row were nodding and one woman two seats down was sleeping through almost the entire movie. (Maybe she had a rough night. . . )

Would have been nice to see some more character development. Except for a few pairings, you could hardly tell from one scene to the next how two people would interact. One scene professional, one scene companionable, the next screaming and the next compassion, with no explanation of the shifts. Huh? Maybe a little more time with the character's back stories or seeing them interact in different ways would have smoothed this out.

When a movie pretends to be documenting real events, even if embellished for dramatic effect, it makes operation of suspension of disbelief more difficult for me. The depicted behavior of the civilian intelligence analysts was often amazingly unprofessional, ignorant of very basic security practices and inconsistent and that pulled me out of the story.

Examples: Maya is meeting a colleague for dinner at a Marriott. She floats the name of the person they are hunting for across a table in an insecure environment where anyone could hear! I hope real analysts operate with a bit more discretion when they are away from the ID badges and pass code protected doors and computer systems.

Later in the movie after the bombing at the Marriott, Maya is invited out to eat and says "I don't eat out...too dangerous." Later, she is seen half intoxicated at a bar when a colleague delivers a rather important piece of intelligence equipment to her (which we never see ir hear about again).

A senior CIA officer screams at his team during a meeting. Nothing more constructive was communicated than "Please get me some answers" except with no "please" and lots of histrionics. Not exactly effective leadership. Really? With all the stress in the lives of folks in the field already, it is hard to imagine any high level worker lasting very long in that position with that sort of behavior. The team would self destruct around him.

Maya, shrieks at her boss in a hallway in a way that would make anyone question her stability. Very unprofessional. Unstable people don't work in classified environments very long.

Maya, in a high level meeting with the CIA director, blurts out irrelevant-to-the-discussion-data just to get some attention. (Paraphrase: "the house is 4021 feet away, eight tenths of miles, not one mile") This is 10 years into her character's career! A "I have nothing important to say, but pay attention to me" meeting strategy is discarded rather quickly after a little experience in the real world. . .or folks who use it find themselves in quiet positions pretty quickly where they won't distract from the core discussions and waste people's time. Surely the writer could have had her say something that was actually important to the discussion that no one else could have known?

Multiple classified conversations between CIA folks on *cell phones* ?? What are they even doing with cell phones in a secure area?

I was a tad disturbed that real suicide attack stories where real people died were doctored up to make them apply more directly to the characters in the movie. I am thinking in particular about the Chapman attack. A 45 year old mother of three was killed for real, but she wasn't an analyst out of Pakistan at the time, and her name was not Jessica.

Check out the wiki article on the Camp Chapman attack in 2009 and read the section on contractor and CIA casualties.

I have to give the writer that leeway to turn a complete snoozer into something with a little excitement, but this seemed disrespectful.

In short too unrealistic to feel like a true to life story, and too slow to enjoy like a piece of fiction.
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1/10
The worst movie I've seen in years
zilian6213 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"The greatest manhunt in history". Well, Dark Zero Thirty movie clearly does not show this! I had way more thrills following the manhunt of the fake Abu Nazir in the TV show Homeland than in this propaganda- movie.

And first, seriously, make a movie out of the death of Bin Laden not even two years after the events? If there's a world war III someday, at the end of it there will be a Hollywood movie about it the year after.

If I would like to tell spoilers about the plot I could not. It is easier to follow by reading some Wikipedia articles about it.

Everything is boring, from the start to the last scene where special forces shoot down unarmed people in Bin Laden's safe-house.

I really don't understand the official critics. No plot, no character building, no suspense - it's actually the first movie I stopped watching before the end in a while. (I later watched the "killing" final scene, just to see).

(Actual spoiler)

Even if I didn't know about the camp attack, I wasn't surprised at all by the suicide bombing. I mean, CIA agents trusted the double agent like hell, and I could not even feel like them in a movie? That's...that's just bad.
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1/10
Complete and thorough Hollywood disconnection of reality
i-amsamuel9 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I was a crewchief assigned to the Group that lifted the SEALS to Abbatobad. I will not make claims I am associated with the mission, because I wasn't. Nonetheless, this movie disappointed me to the point I fell asleep at the 1 hour mark. Without going into a rant, I would hope everyone understands the actual events. "Maya" didn't sacrifice anything; she did find UBL, but was well compensated financially the entire time she was looking. The basis of this movie is her work finding UBL, which makes my stomach turn. It's so easy to sit behind a keyboard and act like you are changing the world. Her line in the movie to "kill Bin Laden for me" will resonate until my death. I can promise you, UBL wasn't killed for Maya and it is pretty obvious that once he was found, the true heroes were summoned. Her remarks in the movie about "you guys showing up with your facial hair and dip" is so disullionist, it should be edited. She is a coward and her glorification in this movie sickens me.
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10/10
confused by the hatred
yjbus17 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
i came into this movie not expecting much after reading all the hatred and i honestly was blown away by both the movie and confusion at the negativity towards it.

i agree that this movie painted a somewhat favorable light towards torture, but it never really once crossed my mind until i read the negative reviews based on it. i'm sorry, but to flat out dislike a movie based on your political/philosophical views probably means you shouldn't be writing a review in the first place.

people also complain about the slowness of the movie. i honestly was riveted by it, from the first minute to the last. every single scene looked to create tension, drama, and purpose towards the goal of catching osama. how is that boring exactly? if anything, i felt the director was too shallow in that the movie seemed to favor over-dramatizing and simplification of the movie in favor of entertainment value; it was too entertaining if anything. i wouldn't have minded a more complex, subtle, and intelligent plot development.

as far as character development goes, i agree that there wasn't much of it, but again i didn't even care until i read the negative reviews about it. i'm confused, because i thought this was a movie about the capture of osama bin laden, not shawshank redemption. the editing, characters, and pacing were very sharp and deliberate and they were supposed to be like that for the purposes of the movie and the content. the lack of character development in favor of a relentless pace and focus towards one singular goal to me 'was' the movie and i loved it for it.

honestly, i'm dumbfounded by the negative reviews. i didn't want to like this movie. i was tired that night and i'm getting old and fall asleep frequently in movie theaters. this movie earned my attention and i was on the edge of my seat until the end credits. i've watched all the major movies this year and this is, in my opinion, the best film of the year.
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1/10
nah...
Y-ray23 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
WASTED time. A LOT of wasted time."Cold war style propaganda", that I thought was supposed to end decades ago. Overrated "movie" by overrated director. There was absolutely nothing of the story I could catch in first hour, maybe hour and half, if not the whole two! I don't really understand why this was created. Maybe if the main actress was Dennis Rodman. Maybe if there was Chuck Norris in the SEAL team. Maybe if there was at least 1/5 of the facts accurate (and Im talking about facts that are just known about this manhunt). Maybe if there was a team of transformers or comic cartoon heroes supporting this action. Maybe if somewhere in Pakistan, Charlie Chaplin fell into sewer because of some banana . Then maybe it would have 2 stars from me.
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1/10
Water Boarding, Killing Bin Laden, Weeping
drbilli17 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The first half of the movie is about CIA operatives interrogating terrorists. Water boarding is being shown as the only world of torture. The terrorists, pretty unimpressed by all this, respond with a bad- ass attitude while bombings continue. Meanwhile the CIA employees show emotional outbursts and are unable to make professional decisions.

The next half, the main character, a good looking young female CIA operative, comes closer into play. Now the movie is all about her. She knows the place of Bin Laden. But the CIA turns into an incompetent organization, where bureaucrats want proof, and therefore decide to do nothing. Thanks to her intrusive attitude, she pushes the CIA into action. She yells at her boss. She takes a pen and writes angry notes on the office glass separation of a higher CIA boss every day. She curses in the conference room to another, even much higher CIA boss etc. And only because of all this behavior, the CIA decides to raid that place.

Now some special forces raid Bin Laden's place and kill him. The girl is relieved, gets on a plane home, and she weeps. And that's how the movie ends.
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10/10
Incredibly Gripping
yem77715 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This movie isn't for everyone. It isn't for people who are vehemently anti-torture. It isn't for people who need a feel-good story with a happy ending. That being said, this movie had me literally on the edge of my seat for 2 1/2 hours and is a fantastic f-ing movie.

People will want to compare this movie to the hurt locker, which is fair in the way that it locks you into scenes and is a war movie. The hurt locker was more of a pure war movie, whereas Zero Dark Thirty uses more dramatizations and has a more coherent direction, while still being an incredibly suspenseful movie.

Some people might criticize this movie for a lack of character development, but they are really missing the point of this movie. It's not your typical Hollywood movie that introduces a protagonist and develops him/her until the conflict is resolved. This movie is about tracking and killing Osama Bin Laden, and the way they used the main character as a metaphor for America as a whole was really impressive, even while refraining from your typical, often boring character developing scenes.

Much more than your average action movie, Zero Dark Thirty was a combination of badass scenes, phenomenal editing, and music, and a fantastic (mostly) true story with epic scope that I can't wait to see again. This is the BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR, and this is coming from a huge batman fan who also just saw Django Unchained a week ago.
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1/10
Thank you IMDb
stargellmn19 January 2013
Knowing this movie was nominated for best picture, I was afraid that I was losing my mind after seeing it, since what I saw in the theater was: one dimensional characters being frustrated about not being able to do anything, inter-cut with a newsreel about current events, followed a ridiculously overdone operation to kill a couple people in a house.

No doubt this is a difficult story to tell dramatically, since it's about people who are doing a job that is passive by nature. But what was striking is how completely devoid it was of character. Courtroom dramas trade in the same stock, but even the most pedestrian episode of Boston Legal or LA Law contain more compelling characters than anyone in this movie.

And most movies about real events overcome the inherent story problems by provoking thought in the audience about the events themselves. What they lack in dramatic momentum, they make up for in unsettling questions. But it was amazing how completely empty this film was of anything resembling a question about what was going on. It was as if Kathryn Bigelow thought she was just "presenting reality" to the audience.

In 50 years, people are going to look back at this movie in the same way that we look at the jingoistic WWII Hollywood features now - as empty fare designed to prop up our fragile national psyche. Maybe that's what people need right now. But let's not pretend it's a quality film.
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7/10
No Easy Decade
ferguson-65 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Greetings again from the darkness. Kathryn Bigelow entered the realm of elite directors when her war thriller The Hurt Locker exploded onto the Oscar scene a few years ago. Once again she proves why the critics adore her, and the movie going masses stay away. She is an expert filmmaker, a brilliant technician, though not much into the whole entertainment scene.

We always try to label films and this one doesn't quite fit as thriller or action, or even war, genre. It's really a tense, procedural drama focusing on the behind-the-scenes CIA hunt for Osama bin Laden. In fact, it's mostly the story of one obsessed CIA agent's research and un-wavering pursuit of the one most responsible for the tragic events of 9-11-01 (as well as many others).

The film started out as a story of the nearly decade long pursuit and the failure to find him. Everything, including the movie, changed on May 2, 2011 when Navy SEAL Team Six pulled off the daring and historic mission to kill bin Laden. The book "No Easy Day" by Mark Owen (pseudonym for real life SEAL Matt Bissonnette) was released and many of the details became public. Bigelow and her writer Mark Boal (former journalist) went even deeper into research mode and now the film has instigated Congressional hearings in regards to some of the scenes.

Bigelow presents this as old school, hard core males vs the intellectual, instinctive and brazen Maya, played by Jessica Chastain. In the book, she is referred to as "Jen", but her name matters not. What's important is her laser-like focus for almost 10 years, despite the numerous attempts by her superiors to ignore her theories.

Much of the film deals with the group meetings and presentations to CIA mid-managers, who either don't trust her or refuse to put their own careers on the line. Maya remains relentless. She finally gets a audience with CIA Director Leon Panetta (played by James Gandolfini) and introduces herself as "the M*****F****R who found this place, sir". This comes across as confident, not disrespectful.

Bigelow and Boal refuse the temptation of providing any real backstory or personal life on these characters. We do learn that Maya was recruited right out of high school, so we can assume she wasn't a typical 18 year old. The only thought of a romantic interlude is quickly shot down by Maya proclaiming (in so many words), she's not that kind of girl.

Most of the men in the film are presented as near Neanderthals. Jason Clarke is the old school field agent who has mastered the use of torture, water-boarding and humiliation to gain information from detainees. The "60 Minutes" clip of Obama saying that America will no longer utilize torture is one of the few tips to national politics that the film offers up. The only politics are those played by station chief Kyle Chandler, who is protective of his job, and Mark Strong, who seems relatively helpless without the support of his superiors. All this while Maya keeps pushing and pounding for action.

The Langley vs Field work provides a distinctive line in the sand between the two worlds, and emphasizes just how easy it is to make a mistake in judgment. What if we had been wrong on the location of bin Laden? What if the "fortress" had belonged to a drug dealer instead and the SEAL team had invaded a private home within the boundaries of supposed ally Pakistan? Jessica Chastain is believable and tough in her role, and Jason Clarke dominates the screen in his early scenes. Other fine support work comes courtesy of Edgar Ramirez, Mark Duplass, Harold Perrineau, and Jennifer Ehle. When we finally get to the strategy session for the mission, we meet SEAL's played by Chris Pratt and Joel Edgerton. The 25 minutes or so dedicated to the helicopter mission are filmed as if we are wearing the same night-vision goggles worn by the brave souls storming the castle. It's a very impressive sequence.

If you enjoy the details of a procedural drama, then you will find much to like here ... knowing the ultimate outcome doesn't affect the suspense one bit. However, if you seek an entertaining respite from your daily grind, this one will offer no assistance ... despite another excellent and minimalistic mood score from Alexadre Desplat.
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1/10
Long, drawn-out and boring...
dkmartinez-barrett28 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This should have been good, I really wanted it to be good. At the very least it should have been interesting. Unfortunately, it took 2.5 hours to tell 45 minute's worth of story... This film needed some serious editing- too many scenes seemed forced, out of place or just thrown in with little explanation or necessity... For example- why include the scene asking Maya about being recruited to the CIA right after high school, then drop the topic saying she can't explain why- it didn't do anything to move the story along- and left me wondering "what was that about???" I mean- would the answer to why she was recruited make her motives and obsessions more understandable? What was the viewer supposed to take away from that conversation? Skip watching this one in the theater- if you must watch it out of curiosity, wait until it comes out on DVD or cable- then at least you're only losing your time and not a handful of hard earned cash.
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10/10
Better than Argo
I've seen all the reasons viewers (and some critics) dislike this film, but in my opinion it is infinitely superior to ARGO in its authenticity and dramatic quality. The final scenes, when the SEAL team, goes into Ben Laden's house, are brilliantly rendered. The idea of doing it mostly in the dark with flashes of illumination by "night vision" green is a brilliant touch, which most directors would never have attempted.

The performances by Jessica Chastain, of course, Jason Clark and Jennifer Ehle are top drawer and the torture scenes, while brutal, are necessary--because that's the way it happened. Congratulations to Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal for getting it right.

I don't want to put the knock on Argo, because I found it entertaining. But it's artificiality provides a distinct contrast with Zero Dark Thirity's authenticity, and authenticity wins.
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4/10
Not That Good
dgreene99-495-32382412 January 2013
I hate to be so contrary to the hype we are hearing and the Oscar tap, but I was not impressed nor even that entertained... in fact I had just commented to my companion movie goer that the lead character had not been very impressive when she finally had some acting to perform... the scene where she gave the station chief an ultimatum... the rest of the story was choppy and not cohesive and as much as I was pumped when the actual take down occurred, I was not pumped at all in the movie's take down... at any rate as much as some seem to appreciate this movie, I on the other hand would not recommend spending the money to see it... Argo was much better.
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1/10
A winning team for a CIA narrative
hellhigh24 January 2013
Mrs. Bigelow is obsessed with obsession. Blue Steel, Point Break, the Hurt Locker, now Zero Dark Thirty. The background of the story changes, but the story remains the same. Behind different faces, the same obsessive character. The obsession portrayed in her films actually is quite simplistic and straightforward, but anyhow, in our time her "oeuvres" are considered as deep, realistic, and arty. After an adrenaline fix come the inevitable frustration and emptiness of living, Mrs. Bigelow shows it to us over and over again; her hero has a conniving streak in him/her, but a hero nevertheless. She's so focused on her obsessed character, it's easy for her to claim that the Iraq war film she made was apolitical, and ZDT, a political thriller, has no political agenda.

Mr. Boal is a journalist. When he begins to write stories for the big screen, we praise his "journalistic approach", and we can easily forget that, as most journalists these days in the US, Mr. Boal is an embedded journalist.

Unlike the Hurt Locker, which, by opening with a quote from Chris Hedges, gives a false impression of an antiwar movie, ZDT is at least honest. At the very beginning it gives us a warning:

"Based on first-hand accounts of actual events"

Aka what CIA told us and what CIA wants you to see.

The decade-long war on terror seen through a CIA agent's eyes, the whole film is shaped into a CIA narrative. As Mrs. Bigelow wrote in her LA Times article, defining ZDT's raison d'être:

"we should never discount and never forget the thousands of innocent lives lost on 9/11 and subsequent terrorist attacks. We should never forget the brave work of those professionals in the military and intelligence communities who paid the ultimate price in the effort to combat a grave threat to this nation's safety and security."

How many times do you hear this from a CIA/Pentagon/WH spokesperson?

Yes never discount and never forget the victims of 9/11, we heard their voices; we saw the London bus bombing survivors bloody faced, eager to share their story. But we can well forget hundreds of thousands innocent civilians killed by US forces in the past ten years, not single one of them had a place in this film. We saw angry Pakistanis gathered in front of American embassy, jumping like savages. But we would not see those CIA drone strikes, bombing Pakistani wedding, killing women and children. "They hate us for our freedom!" we saw Mayor Bloomberg repeat Bush's line. Yes never forget the brave work of those professionals in the CIA, they worked their ass out torturing terrorists, what a psychological trauma it would be watching so many naked men every day? But we can certainly forget there was also innocent people got kidnapped, tortured by these brave professionals. Forget torture is a war crime, we got Ben Laden.

"Those of us who work in the arts know that depiction is not endorsement." Mrs. Bigelow defends her film in her LA Times piece. No Mrs. Bigelow, your film is not art. There's no art without truth.
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1/10
This film will not help to make a better world. No...
e-abecassis20 January 2013
The only question I have in me is: Is this movie done to shock and ask why America is spiting on human rights? or is it to justify it? Technically the movie is fine and the actors good as it succeeded to make me dislike them. It is a pity that the message is so unclear. Ah no yes ... message is torture helped us to fight evil...

Shocking... leaving a lot of questions to me. Disgusting display and pseudo "justification" of human rights violation... poor world. IF this film depicts reality these people should be prosecuted in Nuremberg... I was used to movies without scenario. But this has a scenario and it follows real event I am afraid.

As a conclusion, as showing usage of torture getting result without highlighting the immorality and illegality of torture, I unfortunately imagine this film will "justify" torture in the eyes of younger audience. I have read very hard and justified reviews here.

This film will not help to make a better world. No...
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1/10
worst movie on last 5 years...
assistec2410 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
One need patience to watch this. To see the country who bring us the modern democracy using the KGB "tools" - and all of this for nothing - make me sick. Same parts of this "movie" remember me the black-and-withe Nazi propaganda documentaries. Shooting female civilian in the back its not a heroic act. Not even in a war. Never was. I have some doubts about what real happened on that night in Pakistan. Why the most wanted was not taken alive. Submitted to a Court. Show him to the world and let the American people to judge him. Interrogate him. Using the law to make justice. Nothing of this was answered. All the movie its like a very bad documentary about assassination and torture .

I finish this with only a sad sentence: on a scale from 1 to 10 I give a big 0 (zero).
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1/10
This is a Chick Flick
leemaraven10 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This should be on Lifetime or Hallmark channel. Not only was it completely inaccurate, it had you wondering was the US really that incompetent regarding the search for UBL. A civilian can't even get in a military base in America without going through intensive screening, yet, somehow, a Military base, in Afghanistan, (that contains a CIA Black site, no less.), allows a known Al Quaida member to just drive on in, no check point, nothing. And...yes, you know what's coming next...KA-BOOM! I wont even get into the "texting" between the 2 Female Agents.

There was no Character development, even the protagonist had issues.I find it impossible to believe that an attractive, 99 pound redhead, solely lead the charge to find Americas most wanted. How she got the nod for best actress only proves how inadequate the academy really is in deciding who gets what.

K. Bigelow has just earned a place on my list of directors/actors I refuse to watch. Joining the likes of Tom Cruise and M. Knight. The Hurt Locker was horrible and unbelievable, Zero Dark Thirty is 3 hours of "Good Lord!"
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10/10
The Straightforward Hunt
billygoat107113 January 2013
One's appeal for Zero Dark Thirty is to see how it depicts the search for Osama Bin Laden like it seems too impossible to find him, like he's probably already dead, or almost doesn't exist. Even though there are controversies going around and some revelations, the story is still all dramatized. Without a surprise from director Kathryn Bigelow, the film is totally electrifying and deliberately engrossing. There is humanity left in the end that made this a lot more compelling, but that's the last thing we should talk about. It never backs away from the promise and stays focus on the mission. Zero Dark Thirty is a powerfully gripping thriller.

It's a straightforward mission and only about the mission. We can see the main protagonist's obsession of capturing Bin Laden even without showing any backstories. She's brave, probably too brave, enough on what she's doing. They have to make difficult decisions to where are they gonna go or who are they gonna find. The film is indeed a dramatize version of the ten year hunt. It plays too much suspense and sudden shock, but no matter what, every tragic event are still portrayed in a completely terrifying way.

There is no doubt this film will fall into a controversy. It features a torture scene that many think they justify it. It is so talked about and was against it but it seems the scenes only exists nothing more than showing that sort of truth. The most awaited part of the movie is indeed the climax. Just like anyone would imagine, it's a silent and mercilessly violent raid. There's a lot of humanity in the character Maya. As much as she aggressively wanted to find her target, she still cannot stomach any brutal interrogation and tragedy happening on her associates and other people. Jessica Chastain manages to weigh all of her personalities. Other strong actors like Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Ehle, and Mark Strong keeps their roles effective as well.

Kathryn Bigelow's prominent style is slick tension. Here she displays danger in any place where the characters go like something will suddenly explode or a loud gunfire. The action scenes is filled with suspense. One of the sequences can be tad too ridiculous for this movie but it didn't ruin a single thing to the experience. When it takes place inside the CIA or a meeting, it gets undeniably absorbing. The screen writing makes sure it's factual enough and interesting.

People's expectations might mislead them. Zero Dark Thirty is not only about finding and killing Osama Bin Laden but it's also about one's obsession and revenge to this terrorist. In the end, there's plenty of guilt to express but that proves that they are still human beings. We could merit its brilliant filmmaking and strong storytelling that made it feel like we're part of the search. We all know this is just a dramatization of the true events but all the horrifying truths like the violence stays to the picture. It's a story with nobody calling themselves heroes even though they defeated their enemy. It depicts the darkest parts of its history. Some might wonder how worse it could have been but ignoring all the commotion, Zero Dark Thirty is still a compelling thriller.
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