Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty
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The Greatest Manhunt in History
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A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May, 2011.

Title:Zero Dark Thirty
Release Date:December 19, 2012
MPAA Rating:R
Genres:Thriller, Drama, History
Production Co.:Columbia Pictures, Annapurna Pictures, First Light Production
Production Countries:United States of America
Director:Kathryn Bigelow
Casts:, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Plot Keywords:assassination, cia, hotel, terrorist, prisoner, car dealer, mossad, van, iraq, pakistan, osama bin laden, man hunt, navy seal, f word, female protagonist, gunfight, raid, violence, text message, monkey, dog, special forces, tied up, military, area 51, terrorist group, torturing, woman director, al qaeda, prison camp, water torture, suicide bombing, ex special forces, post 9/11, helicopter crash, islamabad, 2010s
Alternative Titles:
  • 00:30凌晨密令 - [CN]
  • Opération avant l'aube - [CA]
  • Wróg numer jeden - [PL]
  • ยุทธการถล่ม บินลาดิน - [TH]
  • A Hora mais Escura - [BR]
  • Operazione Zero Dark Thirty - [IT]
  • 猎杀本拉登 - [CN]
  • 追击拉登行动 - [CN]
  • 00:30凌晨密令 - [TW]
  • 追擊拉登行動 - [HK]
  • 刺杀本·拉登 - [CN]
  • ゼロ・ダーク・サーティ - [JP]
  • 30 minut po půlnoci - [CZ]
  • Враг номер едно - [BG]
  • La noche más oscura - [AR]
  • Zero Dark Thirty - Die Jagd auf Osama bin Laden - [DE]

Zero Dark Thirty Reviews

  • Zero IQ Thirty
    by Askar Ali Khan on 4 February 2013

    558 out of 839 people found the following review useful:

    I totally agree with the blog posted on 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.

  • Technically Impressive but Surprisingly Hollow
    by Danusha_Goska Save Send Delete on 11 January 2013

    432 out of 707 people found the following review useful:

    "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.

  • Ehhh... seriously?
    by Will on 30 January 2013

    339 out of 557 people found the following review useful:

    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.

  • I can't believe how bad this movie is
    by JR . on 6 January 2013

    293 out of 473 people found the following review useful:

    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

  • Lazy and boring filmmaking
    by analyzepk on 14 February 2013

    155 out of 235 people found the following review useful:

    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.

  • Why on Earth should this movie deserve an Oscar?
    by naerayan on 12 January 2013

    188 out of 330 people found the following review useful:

    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. ;)

  • A Perfect Depiction of the UBL Saga
    by pwiesike on 15 May 2013

    98 out of 153 people found the following review useful:

    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.

  • Poor writing. Requires too much suspension of disbelief to pretend it is real...and slow
    by David (OriEri) on 5 January 2013

    188 out of 334 people found the following review useful:

    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.

  • confused by the hatred
    by yjbus on 17 January 2013

    200 out of 373 people found the following review useful:

    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.

  • The worst movie I've seen in years
    by zilian62 on 13 February 2013

    102 out of 179 people found the following review useful:

    "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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