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'Zero Dark Thirty' Review and Torture Debate - Senate Committee Probing Bigelow and Boal's CIA Contact [UPDATED]

Reviews
by Anne Thompson & Sophia Savage
January 3, 2013 3:31 PM
13 Comments
  • |
'Zero Dark Thirty'


Peter Debruge, Variety:

Wildly more ambitious than "The Hurt Locker," yet nowhere near so tripwire-tense, this procedure-driven, decade-spanning docudrama nevertheless rivets for most of its running time by focusing on how one female CIA agent with a far-out hunch was instrumental in bringing down America's most wanted fugitive.
By forcing partisan politics into the wings (President George W. Bush goes entirely unseen, while auds' only glimpse of President Obama is during a 2008 campaign interview), the duo effectively give gender politics the whole stage: "Zero Dark Thirty" presents the highest-profile U.S. military success of our lifetime as the work of a single woman, "Maya," inspired by a real CIA analyst Boal discovered during his research.
Like Bigelow herself, Maya realizes that actions -- or action movies, in the director's case -- are the surest way to combat a tradition in which society doesn't believe women to be capable of getting the job done, and "Zero Dark Thirty" follows the character through every significant step along her 10-year journey to hold bin Laden accountable for 9/11.

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter:

As it has emerged instead, it could well be the most impressive film Bigelow has made, as well as possibly her most personal, as one keenly feels the drive of the filmmaker channeled through the intensity of Maya's character…  Chastain carries the film in a way she's never been asked to do before. Denied the opportunity to provide psychological and emotional details for Maya, she nonetheless creates a character that proves indelible and deeply felt. The entire cast works in a realistic vein to fine effect.

Richard Corliss, Time:

First and last, Zero Dark Thirty is a movie, and a damned fine one. Like Argo — which, with all due respect to director Ben Affleck and the film’s many admirers, ZDT blows out of the water — it dramatizes a true-life international adventure with CIA agents as the heroes. (And it takes fewer fictional liberties with the source material than Affleck did.) In the tradition of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, Boal tracked down the particulars of a sensational exploit and, skipping the “non-fiction novel” stage, created an original screenplay that provides a streamlined timeline of the hunt for bin Laden. The word “docudrama” doesn’t hint at Boal’s achievement. This is movie journalism that snaps and stings, that purifies a decade’s clamor and clutter into narrative clarity, with a salutary kick.
It’s a subject perfect for Bigelow… As a bright young woman driven to bring down an al Qaeda terrorist, Maya shares aspects of Claire Danes’s Carrie Mathison in the Showtime series Homeland, but she lacks Carrie’s defining neuroses — or much other personal biography. What are Maya’s political beliefs? Who are her family and friends back home? Does she have a sex life? Doesn’t matter: she is her job. In a way, Maya is the CIA equivalent of Bigelow: a strong woman who has mastered a man’s game.
 

13 Comments

  • JAB | January 14, 2013 9:10 PMReply

    Did anybody critical of the torture scenes in ZDT ever see "Syrianna"? That scene with Clooney getting his finger nails pulled out was MUCH tougher to watch than anything is this movie.
    ZDT is just a flat great movie that will stand the test of time. It is not nearly as entertaining as "Argo" (which I love) but is just as riveting . ZDT is more like an "All The President's Men" in its approach to its storytelling & pacing. Like you I like it as much as for what it doesn't give us almost as much for what it did give us. Chastain has a great role to work with & she excells in it. Jason Clarke, Edgerton, Gandolfini, Jennifer Ehle & the rest of the cast are all top rate. This is one helluva movie.

  • TrueDarkness | January 4, 2013 4:49 PMReply

    As a soldier, I watched Zero Dark Thirty with a different perspective to the average audience member. I saw the torture scenes, and my VERY FIRST THOUGHT was "damn, that's pretty accurate". Although it is a war-crime, it happens. We are trained (special/elite ops) not just how to survive and overcome torture, but obviously how to dish it out (the best defense is a good offense). Now 99% of soldiers/naval officers/marines/airman will never use it. But there is that minority, who in the heat of the moment, does things no human being should do. Those moments are the ones shown in the torture scenes. It does happen. In almost every military world wide. Accept it, and move on. The job gets done, and mass murderer and terrorists are eliminated.

  • TrueDarkness | January 4, 2013 4:47 PMReply

    As a soldier, I watched Zero Dark Thirty with a different perspective to the average audience member. I saw the torture scenes, and my VERY FIRST THOUGHT was "damn, that's pretty accurate". Although it is a war-crime, it happens. We are trained (special/elite ops) not just how to survive and overcome torture, but obviously how to dish it out (the best defense is a good offense). Now 99% of soldiers/naval officers/marines/airman will never use it. But there is that minority, who in the heat of the moment, does things no human being should do. Those moments are the ones shown in the torture scenes. It does happen. In almost every military world wide. Accept it, and move on. The job gets done, and mass murderer and terrorists are eliminated.

  • Evin C | January 3, 2013 8:38 PMReply

    So the US Govt. is giving Zero Dark Thirty a bunch of crap and stirring up all this heat because they think the film is pro-torture? Does the US Govt. have any faith in movie going audiences to let them form their own opinions, or do they automatically think that all Americans are going to see it that way? Censorship much. Let's face it, anyone with common sense could have guessed that some kind of torture "may" have been used in the hunt for Osama. This is America, it's not as perfect as everyone wishes it was. The govt. should just bite the bullet and let the public come to their own conclusions.

  • Is Oscar season over yet? | January 3, 2013 6:54 PMReply

    Awards season is truly insufferable. I'm sick of ZDT, sick of these inconsequential debates, sick of the politicking, sick of the relentless campaigning and I'm sick of Jessica Chastain and this contrived feminist schtick. Can this all be over already, so we can return to the movies?

  • Anne Thompson | January 3, 2013 4:18 PMReply

    We're both right. She was born in America and raised in London; she's the daughter of Brit actress Rosemary Harris. She has a British accent.

  • jg | January 3, 2013 4:11 PMReply

    Chastain may have done her homework, but none of these smug, head up their ass "critics" have done likewise. None seem to know anything whatsoever about the case, and easily accept the lies of the CIA torturers as good enough resemblance to fact. The Nazis would have loved such a non-critical "critical" environment. Some inconvenient facts -- torture is a felony. A war crime, a violation of the Geneva conventions. There is no statute of limitations. It also didn't lead to any information about Osama bin Laden's whereabouts, and therefore the film presents clear lies to the viewers. The Real "Maya" -- http://wp.me/pwAWe-Sc

  • jg | January 3, 2013 4:11 PMReply

    Chastain may have done her homework, but none of these smug, head up their ass "critics" have done likewise. None seem to know anything whatsoever about the case, and easily accept the lies of the CIA torturers as good enough resemblance to fact. The Nazis would have loved such a non-critical "critical" environment. Some inconvenient facts -- torture is a felony. A war crime, a violation of the Geneva conventions. There is no statute of limitations. It also didn't lead to any information about Osama bin Laden's whereabouts, and therefore the film presents clear lies to the viewers. The Real "Maya" -- http://wp.me/pwAWe-Sc

  • Josh | January 3, 2013 4:10 PMReply

    Ehle is American.

  • JAB | November 27, 2012 11:26 PMReply

    I can't wait to catch this film. I've been a Bigelow fan since "Near Dark" (the best vampire film ever made in a genre filled with a lot of really good films). "Blue Steel", "Point Break", the under-rated "Strange Days" &, of course, her well-deserved Oscar winning "The Hurt Locker" are movies I've seen several times. We've had "The Dark Knight Rises", "Argo", "Lincoln" as cinematic high marks (I haven't caught "...Playbook" yet) & now comes ZDT.

  • ag | November 26, 2012 2:10 PMReply

    wait. richard corliss says, "First and last, Zero Dark Thirty is a movie, and a damned fine one." really? that's what passes as movie criticism now? zdt 'is a movie...'

  • Corvo | November 26, 2012 9:47 AMReply

    Jingoistic feminism. Laughable.

  • Feminist unite | November 26, 2012 1:53 AMReply

    Girl power rah-rah-rah. She's so tough she eats nails for breakfast and can kill American's number one enemy before 5AM.

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