Zero Dark Thirty (2012) Review

Storming Bin Laden.(Courtesy of Sony Pictures/Jonathan Olley)
Storming Bin Laden.
(Courtesy of Sony Pictures/Jonathan Olley)

Zero Dark Thirty is not an amazing revenge-driven CIA vs. Osama bin Laden story. It is a film based on actual accounts, and if you like procedural manhunt stories, this strives to be one of the best.

With a powerful opening scene that relies solely on phone conversations taken from inside the Twin Towers on September 11th, Zero Dark Thirty aims to make moviegoers pay attention. Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, whose last film (The Hurt Locker) won 2010’s Academy Award for Best picture, takes us on a decade-long journey to capture Bin Laden. But rather than being strapped in for a tense rollercoaster ride, we are slowly guided through 157 minutes of mysterious paper trails, torture tactics, meetings gone wrong, and a decent amount of sizable explosions. When we finally get to the end, the question is not was it worth it, but were you invested?

Jessica Chastain owns her role as Maya, an incredibly determined CIA operative whose one and only job is to track down the highly elusive Osama bin Laden. Through years of endless questioning, personal hardships and tracking down possible leads, Maya remains steadfast and vows she will bring the terrorist to justice. The film is also stacked with an expert supporting cast including Jason Clarke as a highly skilled Interrogation officer, and Kyle Chandler deftly portraying results-driven CIA Chief officer Joseph Bradley. But even with top-notch casting, Zero Dark Thirty lacks a certain something.

For starters, at over two hours long, there is a lot of time spent waiting for things to unfold. Whether it’s an investigation that leads to a dead end, or a torture scene where a suspected informant may draw his last breath, the pacing of the film remains overall deadpan. Even when the now infamous Seal Team 6 makes their assault on Osama’s compound, the intensity never ramps up.

There is also a strange disconnect that happens over the course of the movie’s timeline. It could be that we are stuck with Maya for so long or as the years pass on, no new leads have arisen. Even the Director of the CIA has to be reminded that Bin Laden is still out there. This will no doubt echo in the mind of most Americans, because, sadly, we too had to be reminded that he was still alive and in hiding. However, if you identify with Maya’s own never-give-up attitude, it’s a giant sigh of relief when the infamous terrorist is finally brought to justice.

This film is garnering a lot of attention and praise from critics, so this review is actually in the minority. Bottom line is this, if you are looking for a nail-biting, tense thrill ride, you might be disappointed. What is on display is a well crafted, very detailed manhunt that will have many moviegoers thanking their lucky stars that people like Maya still exist and are very dedicated to their job.