MOVIE REVIEW: Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Does anyone else have a nightmare trying to pick films to watch. Mr O and I are forever getting stuck in a Netflix loop of not knowing what kind of film we’re in the mood for and then getting stuck and just watching nothing. On Sunday Little O had a madly active day and crashed out before 6pm. We suddenly found ourselves with much more evening to fill than usual so Netflix bingo commenced. The requirement was pretty much for something not to heavy and fast paced so I am not quite sure how we ended up with Zero Dark Thirty… the question is, was it worth the 157 minute time sacrifice?

Jessica Chastain plays Maya, a CIA operative who spends ten years tracking down Bin Laden after the 9-11 bombings and his subsequent death at the hands of Navy Seals. Based on real life accounts, the story is as much about the leads and methods used by the CIA as it is about the all-consuming nature of the hunt for Bin Laden and the effect on the lives of the people who tracked him down and whether it was worth it.

Chastain is truly exceptional in this role, capturing Maya’s ruthlessness and tenacity as well as her vulnerability. Throughout the film the audience is left wondering what the purposed of Maya’s life will be once she has completed her mission and if her life has any meaning outside of it. This is established really well with small details like showing her hurriedly eating unappetising food as well as her absence of any human connection outside of work and her inability to connect even with her colleagues for the most part, despite feeling a powerful sense of loyalty towards them.



Maya was sick of sand, sand and more fucking sand…


There are strong supports from Jennifer Ehle, Mark Strong and Jason Clarke. Clarke especially stands out as an operative who is extremely talented at extracting information from detainees but struggling with retaining his humanity. On the other hand I didn’t think Chris Pratt did anything special as the Navy SEAL who actually pulled the trigger. It was such a small role and he got an unnecessarily large billing.

While this is a very long film, it keeps you engaged throughout and despite knowing exactly where things were going to end up, because… history… it was still pretty edge of your seat by the end. I know that one of the core themes of the film was unpicking just how much of a monster you must yourself become to catch a monster but the first hour or so is a hard watch. There is a lot of brutal torture and it sometimes seems endless. It’s a bid to establish Maya committing to the task she feels she must complete but I’m not sure if it went too far and flipped into torture porn. I guess the reality is, these things happened and shying away from it doesn’t change it.

Definitely one of the better political thrillers I have seen, which says a lot because it’s probably my least favourite genre.



  1. I also liked this film, and much more than I expected to. I think it is Chastain’s film though, as without her role, and outstanding performance, it might have just been ‘ordinary’.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. It’s not an easy watch. Chastain is tough and holds her own. Not a film you could watch over and over…

  3. Oh man, we do that too, and scroll and scroll and waste a ton of time looking.

    Maybe one day I will be able to sit through it. It has a good cast and interesting history it covers, but I have tried about four times to watch this and can’t get through the first forty minutes because it just fails to grasp my attention. One day.

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