Zero Dark Thirty

The Nominations:

  • Actress In a Leading Role
  • Best Picture
  • Film Editing
  • Sound Editing
  • Writing (Original Screenplay)

The Black-and-White:

A review by spacedcowboy

A tough movie but surprising as well. I am challenged by movies that tackle historical events in a fictionalized setting. All too often these movies fail to create a story, but rather re-interpret the news. This movie transcended those shortcomings and created a movie, with stories, that shocked and enthralled. Bravo.

Here’s a synopsis from

Maya is a CIA operative whose first experience is in the interrogation of prisoners following the Al Qaeda attacks against the U.S. on the 11th September 2001. She is a reluctant participant in extreme duress applied to the detainees, but believes that the truth may only be obtained through such tactics. For several years, she is single-minded in her pursuit of leads to uncover the whereabouts of Al Qaeda’s leader, Osama Bin Laden. Finally, in 2011, it appears that her work will pay off, and a U.S. Navy SEAL team is sent to kill or capture Bin Laden. But only Maya is confident Bin Laden is where she says he is. Written by Jim Beaver <>

At face value, the movie is the story of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden following the tragic events of 9/11. It focuses on the efforts of a CIA analyst, Maya, who finds and develops a lead, against all odds, that ultimately leads to the events with Seal Team Six in a compound in Abbottabad.

It is a compelling and tough story to watch. No matter what you’ve heard, torture and the ramifications of torture are an important element of this story. There have been real-world questions about that element of the story A QWLL. This scribe is not informed enough to comment, and to me, it doesn’t matter. This is not a documentary. I entered the theater understanding that I am about to see a fictional story, and even though it is based on actual people and events, I am not going to assume that I am seeing anything factual in the film.

I applaud the writers for giving all the characters in the film a storyline and arc. The journey is not just limited to the main character Maya – played with energy and commitment by Jessica Chastain in an Oscar-worthy performance. Jason Clark was haunting in his portrayal of Dan, a CIA operative who slips effortlessly between torturer and a likable guy a with realism that is troubling. A nomination for him would have been appropriate.

Even the members of Seal Team Six are given a voice and a journey. It would have been easy to make them simply super-soldiers; instead they were made human.

A complaint often heard against the film is it’s length. At 157 minutes long, it is an interesting nominee in the category of film editing. One wonders what exactly was edited? However, I take an alternative view. The length of the film is actually an important story element. The hunt for Bin Laden was slow and frustrating. It was over nine long years from September 11, 2001 to May 1, 2011 when Bin Laden was finally found and killed. Each and every day the analysts and operatives searching for him felt the burden of their task as the mounting losses from ongoing terrorist attacks underlined their frustration in finding even a credible lead to his whereabouts. The slow pacing of the movie, interrupted violently by the attacks in London, Saudi Arabia, New York and Pakistan, adds to this story.

The final conflict in Bin Laden’s compound was astoundingly well-shot and edited. It would have been an easy cheat to have Seal Team Six storm in as modern-day cowboys. Instead, carefully and professionally they move through the compound and up to the third floor for the final confrontation. The editing and pacing of this sequence was superb.

A question I had going into the movie, and in thinking about the real-world events portrayed, was why was Bin Laden not taken alive? The movie had to address this question one way or another, and I think the solution presented was realistic. Seeing how the events played out, I was satisfied that that was the only way it could have ended.

In terms of the nominations: Zero Dark Thirty faces tough competition in each of its nominated categories. Chastain is a long-shot, and I don’t see it edging Argo or Lincoln for Best Picture. It has a realistic chance in Editing (both Film and Sound), and I never thought I’d say that for a movie that is two and a half hours long… The story was well-written and measured and the nod for Original Screenplay well-deserved.

One Response to Zero Dark Thirty

  1. […] We said: Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty” […]

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