* Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

A review - by Shlomoh Sherman
January 26, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty (2012) also Known As: LA NOCHE MÁS OSCURA
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer: Mark Boal (screenplay)
Stars: Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton and Chris Pratt
Genre:  Drama - History - Thriller
Release Date: January 11, 2013 (USA)
Runtime: 157 min
Sound Mix: Dolby Digital
Color: Color
Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 22 wins & 32 nominations
Plot Keywords: Al Qaeda - Osama Bin Laden - Navy Seal - Terrorist - CIA    
Taglines: The greatest manhunt in history.
Genres: Drama - History - Thriller
Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)
Rated R for strong violence including brutal disturbing images, and for language
Country: USA
Language: English
Filming Locations: Chandigarh, Punjab,
Company Credits: Production Co: Annapurna Pictures
Plot Synopsis: 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.

"The film's working title was FOR GOD AND COUNTRY. The title ZERO DARK THIRTY was officially confirmed at the end of the film's teaser trailer. It's a military term for 30 minutes after midnight, and it refers also to the darkness and secrecy that cloaked the entire decade-long mission."


By now most people know the basic story of ZERO DARK THIRTY. A frsshly recruited CIA operative named Maya is made part of the team to capture AL QAEDA terrorists following the attacks against the U.S. on September 11, 2001. The film opens with Maya witnessing the interrogation of a prisoner. She is initially put off by the techniques used by the interrogators [eg. waterboarding] but ultimately comes to understand that vital life-saving information can only be gotten through these tactics. As the years pass, Maya rises in the ranks of the CIA and becomes the virtual person in charge of the search for AL QAEDA's leader, Osama BinLaden. Maya's work eventually leads to the possible location of binLaden but it becomes her task to convince her superordinates, including the head of the CIA and president Obama, that binLaden is actually where she believes him to be hiding. Finally, in 2011, she does succeeed in convincing the personnel involved that the location is correct. A U.S. Navy SEAL team is sent to kill or capture Bin Laden, and Maya is vindicated in her decade long search for the arch terrorist.

Controversial aspect of the film: As Suzanne and I watched ZERO DARK THIRTY, it became apparent that there would be scenes involving torture of terrorists. In fact, the film's opening scene is one of a prisoner being tortured. The scenes involving interrogating torture are stark, vivid, explicit and brutal. For those who have no stomach for such scenes, I advise you not to see this movie, for there are many such. My own opinion has always been that in this era, when thousands and tens of thousands of lives are at stake, it is necessary to get as much information from prisoners as quickly as possible by all means, including torture. In one scene, a prisoner is told at the start that he has a choice between giving up the information to Maya or being shipped to Israel for further interrogation. The man immediately tells her what she wants to know. The inference is that Israelis do not play around with terrorists. They torture information out of them as should be the case.

I am appalled at those people who say that when we torture, what makes us better than they? Better? The unmitigated CHUTSPAH [gall]. These people actually believe that we are better than other people. I know it's the myth that we feed our citizens as well as the citizens of other countries. The fact remains that we are no better than any other group of human beings and no worse. But we are certainly no better. There was a time in the recent past when we would turn prisoners over to other governments such as Egypt to have their interrogators do the torturing for us. But since the so-called "Arab Spring", we have taken on the responsibility ourselves and it is about time that we did. Better one terrorist tortured than many innocent Americans dead or maimed.

The film has been nominated for 5 Oscars among other awards.

Cast overview, first billed only:

Jason Clarke ...   Dan
Reda Kateb       ...   Ammar
Jessica Chastain ...   Maya
Kyle Chandler ...   Joseph Bradley
Jennifer Ehle ...   Jessica
Harold Perrineau ...   Jack
Jeremy Strong ...   Thomas
J.J. Kandel       ...   J.J.
Wahab Sheikh ...   Detainee on Monitor
Alexander Karim ...   Detainee on Monitor
Nabil Elouahabi ...   Detainee on Monitor
Aymen Hamdouchi ...   Detainee on Monitor
Simon Abkarian ...   Detainee on Monitor
Ali Marhyar       ...   Interrogator on Monitor
Parker Sawyers ...   Interrogator on Monitor

Did You Know? Trivia:
Jessica Chastain has permanently saved a voice mail from director Kathryn Bigelow in which Chastain learned she had been chosen to play the role of Maya. The message came on November 21 at 1:04 p.m.

Errors in geography: When they are chasing the messenger down in the streets of 'Pakistan' there is a wide view of the street and you can clearly see an Indian flag flying in the background.

"Need You Now" - Performed by Lady Antebellum
Written by Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood and Josh Kear, Produced by Lady Antebellum and Paul Worley, Courtesy of Capitol Nashville Records
Alexandre Desplat composed the film's score.[15] The score, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, was released as a soundtrack album by Madison Gate Records on December 19, 2012.[16] Soundtrack track listing:
1. "Flight To Compound"  
2. "Drive to Embassy"  
3. "Bombings"  
4. "Ammar"  
5. "Monkeys"  
6. "Northern Territories"  
7. "Seals Take Off"  
8. "21 Days"  
9. "Preparation For Attack"  
10. "Balawi"  
11. "Dead End"  
12. "Maya on Plane"  
13. "Area 51"  
14. "Tracking Calls"  
15. "Picket Lines"  
16. "Towers"  
17. "Chopper"  
18. "Back to Base"  

Message Boards - Recent Opinions:  
I can understand why this particular film may have made ripples in the American cinema.The truth is, research done for this film has been nothing short of despicable and is, in reality, far far away from the lives we as Pakistanis live. The entire panoply of this film is embedded with rotten clichés of Muslims and Pakistanis.           VULCAN3
Did Maya falsely identify UBL in the end?          SPACE_BASE
Why is the US hiding the OBL death photos?    THEODOREBNOLAN
Interesting film but Award worthy? opinions pls    ANDYK69
Clearly the 'torture' worked, duh!                RECKONER
'Muslims don't celebrate with cake' + Dan's tattoo  IMARIAM
Anyone else disappointed by the raid scene?    KIDNERD

Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Does Osama Bin Laden actually appear in the film?
Q: What does the title 'Zero Dark Thirty' actually mean?

Return To The Reviews Index Page

Return To The Site Index Page

Email Shlomoh