Zero Dark Thirty

After 2009’s The Hurt Locker, which was the surprise Oscar winner for Best Picture and many other accolades, one can presume that director Kathryn Bigelow had reached a great milestone with such little recognition. The epic war drama about a bomb disposal team during the Iraq War set a path for Bigelow for her next big movie, which would ultimately become this year’s Zero Dark Thirty. Similar to The Hurt Locker‘s war drama vibe, Zero Dark Thirty tackles the 10-year manhunt against the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden. The plot involves the story of a CIA operative (Jessica Chastain, “The Help”), who pursues bin Laden over a decade, persisting through her relentless effort in receiving valuable information that would eventually lead to the whereabouts of the head 9/11 terrorist. Upon watching this movie, I recognized the high points first: its premise was promising; it included action-packed sequences and a taut script from acclaimed writer Mark Boal; and it attained the recognition it needed from both audiences and critics, as it currently holds 5 Academy Award Nominations, including (once again) Best Picture. However, after realizing this, I began to wonder: Was Zero Dark Thirty really that Oscar-worthy? I mean, sure, the effects were great, the intensity was never-ending, the acting was superb, and the direction was steady. But compared to other epic war dramas, such as 1997’s classic Saving Private Ryan and 1998’s The Thin Red Line, it didn’t seem to hold the same high standard. In fact, most of the beginning was slow and parts of the movie mish-mashed the plot characters with actual horrific post-9/11 events in various countries, which only makes sense because it just adds onto the drama. Moreover, Jessica Chastain has been praised for her performance, but I consider it a bit overrated, since it didn’t feel like the movie had centralized her until the very end (which was brilliant, by the way). Also, people made such a big deal about the torture scenes in the movie, which, in reality, weren’t that bad. It was only a few scenes in the beginning that they tortured one victim who was considered a lead to knowing info about Osama. However, the use of torture wasn’t the only controversy that took place in Zero Dark Thirty. Other controversies included putting improper classified material in the film, such as the fact that only one person (in this case, Chastain’s character) was involved in the Osama bin Laden pursuit, when in actuality, there were many. But if you think of it differently, Zero Dark Thirty is a dramatization of the Osama bin Laden killing so it didn’t necessarily have to be completely analytically or politically correct since it’s a movie. It’s amazing, though, how a movie can receive so much controversy for its themes, yet it becomes one of 2012’s most acclaimed films. I guess you could say that Zero Dark Thirty was meant to bring up the topics of the use of torture in America, international tension, and political authority, which can be useful for after-movie talk. However, despite the fact that Zero Dark Thirty is both an intellectually stimulating political drama and war epic, it lacks the potential to withhold a high standard of being a cinematic masterpiece. Watch the trailer here.
Grade: B
Recommended: For political junkies and die-hard action fans (but really, anyone can see it)

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