Metascore
95

Universal acclaim - based on 46 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 44 out of 46
  2. Negative: 0 out of 46
  1. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Jan 2, 2013
    75
    Do we want to know more about Osama bin Laden and al Qaida and the history and political grievances behind them? Yes, but that's not how things turned out. Sorry, but there you have it.
  2. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Dec 18, 2012
    88
    A compelling contemporary thriller with the added benefit of also being an engrossing character study.
  3. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Dec 5, 2012
    100
    Once in a long while, a fresh-from-the-headlines movie - like "All the President's Men" or "United 93" - fuses journalism, procedural high drama, and the oxygenated atmosphere of a thriller into a new version of history written with lightning. Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow's meticulous and electrifying re-creation of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, is that kind of movie.
  4. Reviewed by: Lou Lumenick
    Dec 18, 2012
    100
    Like the fictional Clarice Starling in "The Silence of the Lambs,'' Maya is a consummate professional who brilliantly performs her job in an often hostile work environment.
  5. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Dec 18, 2012
    100
    Hang on tight. The knockout punch of the movie season is being delivered by Zero Dark Thirty.
  6. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Jan 3, 2013
    100
    One of the most innovative and best made films of the past year. Every now and then, even Dick Cheney gets to like a great movie.
  7. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Dec 14, 2012
    58
    By showing scenes of torture without taking any kind of moral (as opposed to tactical) stand on what we are seeing, Bigelow has made an amoral movie – which is, I would argue, an unconscionable approach to this material.
  8. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Jan 3, 2013
    100
    It's a movie made with the same coolly fanatical attention to craft the lead character displays in her work. Bigelow is now recognized as one of our true filmmaking naturals.
  9. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Dec 20, 2012
    100
    Judged solely as a film, a partially fictionalized account of the decade-long search for bin Laden, it's superbly crafted and relentlessly dramatic. More than that, though, Zero Dark Thirty is a shock to the system, one that's bound to incite discussion of profoundly troubling issues.
  10. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Dec 18, 2012
    100
    One reason Boal makes such a potent combination with Bigelow is that her directing style moves us right along. She is so good with both action and creating a convincing look and feel for the film that the time it takes to get up to speed with the complicated plot does not feel like a problem.
  11. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Dec 18, 2012
    63
    While this decade-long look at the inner workings of the CIA is intriguing, the movie would have benefited by more character development and additional editing.
  12. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Jan 3, 2013
    100
    A monumental achievement that documents a coordinated and complicated response to a monumental tragedy.
  13. Reviewed by: Rene Rodriguez
    Jan 4, 2013
    88
    Maya is as consumed with finding bin Laden as Jake Gyllenhaal was obsessed with finding a serial killer in "Zodiac," only he was doing it as a hobby.
  14. 100
    As a moral statement, Zero Dark Thirty is borderline fascistic. As a piece of cinema, it's phenomenally gripping - an unholy masterwork.
  15. Reviewed by: Manohla Dargis
    Dec 18, 2012
    100
    Ms. Bigelow's direction here is unexpectedly stunning, at once bold and intimate: she has a genius for infusing even large-scale action set pieces with the human element.
  16. Reviewed by: Scott Tobias
    Dec 18, 2012
    100
    Zero Dark Thirty stands to become the dominant narrative about this important historical event, no matter its distortions, composites, or other slippery feints of storytelling. In that, it wields a dangerous power.
  17. Reviewed by: Stephanie Zacharek
    Feb 27, 2013
    100
    Zero Dark Thirty is precise, definitive filmmaking, yet Bigelow refuses to hand over easy answers. Some people call that evasion. I call it the ultimate despair.
  18. Reviewed by: Lawrence Toppman
    Jan 10, 2013
    88
    Zero Dark Thirty, like the mission that inspired it, commands respect, admiration, even awe in places for the logistical nightmares that had to be overcome to get it done. But it's a hard movie to love.
  19. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Jan 3, 2013
    100
    The key American film of 2012 ... Its stance is extremely tricky. It's not a documentary. It's not a load of revenge nonsense. It's not '24.' I'm still arguing with myself over parts of it. And that's a sign that a movie will endure.
  20. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Nov 27, 2012
    100
    The film's power steadily and relentlessly builds over its long course, to a point that is terrifically imposing and unshakable.
  21. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Dec 14, 2012
    100
    A sweeping and magnificent work of cinematic craft, by far the best film of Bigelow's career.
  22. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Jan 10, 2013
    100
    By and large, Zero Dark Thirty dispenses with sentimentality and speculation, portraying the final mission not with triumphalist zeal or rank emotionalism but with a reserved, even mournful sense of ambivalence.
  23. Reviewed by: Liam Lacey
    Jan 11, 2013
    75
    Not everything about Zero Dark Thirty zips by. The middle hour of the film feels overstuffed with agency chiefs and national security advisors gazing on the feisty Maya with avuncular admiration.
  24. Reviewed by: Joe Neumaier
    Dec 18, 2012
    80
    What finally sticks in the mind about "ZDT" is its precision. What the film says about getting information from terrorism suspects in an era of high-tech surveillance depends on your point of view. What is unquestionable is how powerful its full scope is.
  25. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Dec 14, 2012
    90
    It's only at the very beginning and the very end that Zero Dark Thirty functions (brilliantly) as a ripped-from-the-headlines political thriller. Much of the rest of the time, it's a workplace drama about a woman so good at her job that most of her colleagues think she's crazy.
  26. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Nov 27, 2012
    100
    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.
  27. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Jan 3, 2013
    100
    A great movie, an astonishing achievement on nearly every level.
  28. Reviewed by: Kimberley Jones
    Jan 16, 2013
    89
    It's a mistake to confuse Zero Dark Thirty for "truth" – that would be a disservice to the high level of craftsmanship, from first-billed actors to below-the-line production crew, at work in this movie fiction – but there is admirably little fat on its bones.
  29. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Dec 11, 2012
    100
    The details are gripping, presented with respect for an audience's intelligence.
  30. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Jan 11, 2013
    100
    The U.S. government did torture prisoners of war in the name of its so-called war on terror and, by extension, in the name of all Americans. What Bigelow and Boal seem to be arguing is that such actions take a deep cosmic toll on the people responsible -- whether directly, in the case of Chastain's character, or indirectly, in the case of you and me.
User Score
6.7

Generally favorable reviews- based on 833 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 55 out of 220
  1. Dec 26, 2012
    2
    Tedious. Just because something compelling happened in real life doesn't mean it makes for a good movie. For the life of me I can't understand the critical acclaim here. Nothing in this movie feels believable, first and foremost Chastain's performance. She is miscast, shrill, and has no gravitas. I didn't believe for one second she was a "tough" high level CIA analyst. Most performances in general felt off and even the amazing Kyle Chandler was reduced to cliche. The movie feels cheap and shallow. There is zero character development, everything feels easy, the torture scenes are gratuitous, and then James Gandolfini comes bobbling in as Leon Pannetta? Although Homeland on Showtime has far-fetched plot lines, it is a thousand times more compelling and a million times better acted. Just don't get at all what the fuss is. And almost three hours. Ouch. Full Review »
  2. Dec 21, 2012
    0
    The hollywood sycophants are already drooling all over the movie, hence the ratings. However it is amazing how quickly people forget that the creators betrayed the soldiers they were embedded with, while researching 'The Hurt Locker'. The soldiers portrayed in the movie behaved nothing like real soldiers - the creators claimed artistic license while dishonoring those who were kind enough to allow the civilians an unvarnished view into their world.

    This movie is much the same, again with Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal cashing in on the lives of those who give so much, so the rest of us may live out our lives in a safer world. Critics and audiences will rave over this movie because it is "real and gritty" - despite the fact they are lucky enough to know nothing about the world the movie claims to portray. This movie is nothing more than a sycophantic attempt by media liberals to burnish President Obama's image, while cashing in on the hard work and sacrifices of those who put their lives on the line for the rest of us. hollywood, Kathryn and Mark should be ashamed. The least they could've done is give an accurate portrayal of what happened.
    Full Review »
  3. Jan 6, 2013
    6
    First of all, I'm always amazed at the number of 10 and 0 reviews. People really need to stop and think about what a 10 and what a 0 implies. Whatever, just my two cents on user reviews. ---- As for the movie, I felt like giving it a 4, but that's mostly because my expectations were let down. I'm not sure what the recent love affair with Kathryn Bigelow is all about? ZDT is far from extraordinary. Everything about this movie (script, acting, direction, cinematography--everything) is smart, faultless, and safe. As such, it's hard to say anything bad about the film, yet, that's exactly why it fails to stand out. It evokes no emotion and little controversy over such a controversial topic--it's moot art. ...now I'll go read the reviews to see why I'm wrong. Full Review »