Film Review: Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

My rating: ★★★★


A topic of discussion everyone is familiar with, the already known outcome, the dramatization of true events and mixing them altogether in a single film, Zero Dark Thirty is a good film if I look at it from the perspective of filmmaking only. However, it doesn’t offer that much, it has no characterization whatsoever. The main character of the film is Maya (played by Jessica Chastain), a young CIA officer who has done nothing but spent her entire short career on Osama bin Laden. Now, I’m totally okay with that but her life, her character should have been supported by a back-story. There should have been several flashbacks as to why she joined CIA in the first place. I’m still okay if there aren’t any flashbacks or her story, but her character seems unbelievable and uninspiring at times. She doesn’t have any theory to prove why she is right, she just says she is right. And obviously, she is. It doesn’t have to do anything with Chastain’s performance, she has done a brilliant job (especially that motherf***er dialogue which was badass and funny at the same time). All the critic wins and potential nominations in major awards are totally deserving for her.The real problem is how her character has been written by Mark Boal and how the entire screenplay of the film has been dealt with.

The running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes and it really feels that long because the first half of the movie seems ridiculously boring and irritating. I expected the content of a different nature, the real and original content that has been kept away from the public for so many years, not the moulded one. The real truth about the September 11 attacks, all the suicide bombings and finally Osama bin Laden’s killing. It felt like I was watching a documentary at times. Kathryn Bigelow still has been able to do her job pretty well, the direction of the film is somewhere in between good and excellent. And it cannot be ignored that when it comes to films like this, her vision and method of direction are way more than outstanding. Moving on to the screenplay, it is good but definitely not the best. The dialogues should have been more intense rather than simply showing the scenes incorporating torture that is a good way to escape when you know your writing isn’t brilliant enough. Editing and the pacing of the film are kind of good but they don’t feel balanced at times, there is not one way of pacing of the storyline, sometimes it gets fast and sometimes it gets so slow. The supporting cast members such as Jason Clarke (Dan), Joel Edgerton (Patrick) and Mark Strong (George) do the right amount of job that has been assigned to their roles.

The best things about this film are its last 30 minutes of operation which led to Osama bin Laden’s killing; its background score (by Alexandre Desplat) which is pretty intense and proves to be more supportive than screenplay at times; clever cinematography (by Greig Fraser); Bigelow’s direction (a little bit supported by Mark Boal’s writing) and Jessica Chastain’s performance which is downright astonishing. I can call Zero Dark Thirty a great film but it is not better than Bigelow’s previous direction The Hurt Locker, which was more intense, which had plenty of jaw-dropping scenes and which had more characterization.

Every major critic you see would be commenting that ZD30 would win the Best Picture Oscar. This fact is making it so overrated that it would fail to build up to a lot of people’s expectations who haven’t watched it yet. Same thing happened to me. I watched it with the expectation and the mindset that it is the best film of 2012 but it isn’t, it may be one of the best but not the ultimate best film.

A lot of people are associating this movie with the fact that if they are Americans then they should obviously like this movie because it depicts what took America to finally kill bin Laden. If we are going to talk about it from that perspective then I can say that this movie is nothing but a false reality, how America hides the truth and only shows what it wants its public to see. There are a lot of theories about September 11 attacks and some of which are logical and actually make sense but still, people don’t want to believe that because they are afraid of losing the so-called trust in their government. OBL’s killing is also blurry, nobody knows what really happened that day. The US government just made an announcement that they have killed bin Laden. If they actually killed him then why did they not show his face on the television? Anyway, this is not the topic of discussion here. The film should be taken as piece of entertainment rather than taking it as a piece of reality and the same goes to US Senate, ZD30 has given rise to a huge political controversy as according to the Senators, they don’t torture anyone. They should also understand that the incorporation of dramatization and fiction is necessary to build up the tension and give rise to intense moments to keep the film interesting.

The key conclusion is that this film could get all the major awards in Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards and BAFTA Awards because of its genre, Bigelow’s brilliant direction and Chastain’s performance and which, to some extent, is reasonable but I don’t think it should be winning the Best Picture awards but the chances are that it will. Who knows? I’d still be happier it wins the Best Picture awards, but happiest if it goes to any other deserving film.