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: 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.
  2. Reviewed by: Kim Newman
    Jan 21, 2013
    100
    Gripping throughout, with an impressive central performance, this is like a Dogme 95 redo of a Chuck Norris film - by heroic effort, the good guys find and kill a bad guy. How you feel about that is something Bigelow leaves you to decide.
  3. 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.
  4. Reviewed by: Neil Smith
    Jan 11, 2013
    80
    Breathlessly tense, thrillingly orchestrated and intellectually complex, this damn fine piece of rigorous, meticulous filmmaking enhances Kathryn Bigelow's status as one of her generation's most accomplished directors.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Reviewed by: Marc Mohan
    Jan 10, 2013
    83
    Viewers looking for a propagandistic take will be disappointed, but even those who doubt the overall framework and existence of the so-called War on Terror should appreciate this thrilling tale of the hunt for the world's most wanted man.
  8. 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.
  9. Reviewed by: Calvin Wilson
    Jan 10, 2013
    100
    Unlike too many films these days, Zero Dark Thirty dares to embrace complexity. And that makes it not just state-of-the-art entertainment, but a great film.
  10. 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.
  11. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Jan 9, 2013
    100
    The last thing we see in Zero Dark Thirty is Maya's face and it is also ours, silently crying tears of reflection.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Jan 3, 2013
    100
    A great movie, an astonishing achievement on nearly every level.
  16. 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.
  17. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Jan 3, 2013
    100
    A monumental achievement that documents a coordinated and complicated response to a monumental tragedy.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. Reviewed by: Bob Mondello
    Dec 20, 2012
    95
    Was the death of Osama bin Laden worth the moral price, the compromised ideals? The filmmakers could hardly avoid raising those questions, but they pointedly leave them for the audience to answer. This is not a triumphant story in their telling, but it is one uncommonly freighted with the weight of history.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Dec 18, 2012
    88
    A compelling contemporary thriller with the added benefit of also being an engrossing character study.
  25. Reviewed by: Scott Foundas
    Dec 18, 2012
    100
    It's a sensational performance by Chastain...She's a most unlikely leading lady, pale and slight of stature, with a raging mane of strawberry blond hair, but she holds the screen with a feral intensity, an obsessive's self-possession.
  26. 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.
  27. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Dec 18, 2012
    50
    As a realistic political thriller about Americans in harm's way it is not half as suspenseful or entertaining as "Argo." We may never know the truth about how we found bin Laden, but I still believe what we do know makes a strong enough story on its own without Wonder Woman.
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. 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.
User Score
6.7

Generally favorable reviews- based on 823 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 53 out of 217
  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 »