Movie Review: Zero Dark Thirty

Ratings for reviews will appear above the fold, while the review itself will appear below the fold to avoid spoilers for anyone that wants to go into it with a blank slate.

Jean-Paul’s rating: 4/5 stars

Spoiler Alert: Osama Bin Laden dies at the end.

Imagine you are tasked with finding Osama Bin Laden.  Imagine, after a decade of searching, you find him.  Or you think you’ve found him.  You’re pretty sure.  Almost positive.  No, you don’t really have any hard evidence.  Everything just makes sense.  All the pieces add up.  The President gives the go-ahead and you have to watch the men take off to possibly kill America’s most wanted.  Watch and wait.  And wait…

So goes the story of Maya, a CIA operative who pushed to find Bin Laden when others weren’t terribly interested in doing so.  Sometimes she has allies, sometimes she’s alone.  All the time, she won’t back down.  And it pays off.

Even though you already know how it all ends, the build up to the green light and the raid itself is amazingly tense.  This may be because we are witnessing on film the portrayal of one of the most well known events in human history and we, as Americans, are emotionally drawn to it.  Whatever the reason, Katherine Bigelow deserves major props for crafting a taut, exciting, prolonged action scene.

There is some controversy over the portrayal of torture as being a key component in providing the leads that help track down Bin Laden.  We know that no information that led to the capture of Bin Laden was discovered through torture.  It would be easy to come away from the movie with the impression that Bin Laden was caught as a direct result of information retrieved through torture.  I think this is more one of those “you see what you want to see” things.  In my opinion, Bigelow did a good job of walking the line here.  This is supposed to be a factual portrayal of events and torture was without a doubt part of the story.  And, while Bigelow could have done a better job of making it clear what torture did and did not reveal, the torture scenes were necessary to show exactly how things went from point A to point B.  If I had any complaints about the torture scenes, it would be that they were too tame and you may get the impression that torture is no big deal.

“Zero Dark Thirty” may not be an historically significant movie, but it is certainly a generationally significant movie.  This is something we have lived through.  Being able to see a decade of historical events strewn together culminating in the death of Osama Bin Laden is very satisfying.