User Score
6.7

Generally favorable reviews- based on 831 Ratings

User score distribution:

Review this movie

  1. Your Score
    0 out of 10
    Rate this:
    • 10
    • 9
    • 8
    • 7
    • 6
    • 5
    • 4
    • 3
    • 2
    • 1
    • 0
    • 0
  1. Submit
  2. Check Spelling
  1. May 4, 2014
    9
    So, I realise I'm late to the party in regards to this film but better late than never, right?

    On the surface of it, you can be forgiven for automatically comparing Zero Dark Thirty to Bigelow's other 'war' film, The Hurt Locker; you could be forgiven but you would be entirely wrong! The two films are completely different yet both are equally compelling, just for contrasting reasons.


    The movie starts with audio only; calls between victims and the emergency services during the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. It's heartbreaking and horrifying without actually showing you anything. From here we jump two years and we are introduced to Jessica Chastain's character, Maya. Bigelow and writer, Mark Boal, give the audience a strong female character; a single minded woman who stops at nothing until she gets what she wants. Chastain's portrayal is a marvel; from her first 'interrogation' to the final moments, Maya's growth as a character, in strength and resolve, is utterly convincing. The only downside is that the audience never gets beneath the surface. Bigelow sacrifices who Maya is for what she does. However Jessica Chastain is so powerful in her role that the viewer will follow her story anyway without question.

    The death of Bin Laden is almost always told as the story of the brave men who stormed his compound, yet we don't get to meet this group until two hours into the film. This film isn't about these people, it's about what went on behind the scenes to allow such a mission to take place; the many layers of bureaucracy and years of research Maya and company endure just to get a meeting with the Director of the C.I.A (played by James Gandolfini).

    Some of the torture scenes make for uncomfortable viewing no matter what your opinion of it's usage. Bigelow pulls no punches in her direction and creates a visually beautiful film amid harsh environments. 
    The final half hour, the storming of Bin Laden's refuge which is shot almost in real time, is fascinating as the director switches between night vision goggles and the drab natural light of the compound, drawing the audience in and creating a tense final scene (despite the fact that we all know the ending of this story).
    Expand
  2. Apr 18, 2014
    9
    A really good true story that kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. Acting was incredible, Jessica Chastain deserved the Oscar for best actress in my opinion for this role but didn't end up getting it. Still a greatly acted movie. It ran long but there were just the right amount of action and drama mixed in to keep you into it for the whole time.
  3. Jan 16, 2014
    9
    Flawed but fantastic, Zero Dark Thirty is intense and has a keen eye for detail and a very complex central character, brilliantly acfted by Jessica Chastain.
  4. Dec 28, 2013
    10
    Zero Dark Thirty is an incredible achievement, and in my mind candidate for best film made so far this decade. It has brought about an important debate, but more significantly it covers ten years of the war on terror in prime fashion. Chastain's Maya, a breathtaking performance of sheer will and determination, is one of the best of modern film acting male or female. Bigelow plays for high realism but she also knows how to create great drama by stretching but never breaking those confines. Every scene belongs for a purpose and never does it feel like one is missing; that in itself is an incredible achievement. Credit her direction, the cast, and the great script by Mark Boal. Expand
  5. Nov 17, 2013
    9
    Zero Dark Thirty, for the most part, is riveting, engaging, and ultimately satisfying, as it accurately portrays the hunt for Bin Laden. Great acting by Chastain. What would've made it even better is further editing and further character development.
  6. Aug 29, 2013
    10
    Incredibly gripping. The movie perfectly shows how hard can a job at CIA be. Its truly one of those true-story movies that are worth watching. It doesnt focus so much on action, but rather on interesting dialogue. Im dont usually like when people talk for the most part of the movie but Zero Dark Thirty just did it right.
  7. Jul 10, 2013
    9
    "Zero Dark Thirty" lies between art and entertainment, realism and spectacle, effectively intertwining journalism and drama--resulting in a riveting film with provocative deliberations with reflection. As a cinematic experience, the film can be an undoubtedly punishing experience at times, given that U.S.-sanctioned torture figures prominently here, and has been flirting with controversy even before the film’s release. “Zero Dark Thirty” reunites the Oscar winning team of director-producer Kathryn Bigelow and writer/producer Mark Boal “The Hurt Locker” (2008) for the story of history's greatest manhunt for the world's most dangerous man.

    Maya (Jessica Chastain) is a CIA operative and her only objective is the unrelenting pursuit of leads to uncover the whereabouts of Al Qaeda's leader, Osama Bin Laden. Maya is a lone wolf-- a CIA agent who sticks to her convictions that bin Laden is not hiding out in caves in Afghanistan, but is likely living in relatively open sight. Based on true events, and from firsthand accounts by the CIA agents involved, the movie sets itself up very much like a docudrama. Characterization is passed over and the viewer forced to merely follow along procedurally with the characters; namely, Jessica Chastain's Maya. She is the anchor of the entire film, the one person you are given to carry you through the story, but if you are looking for a background on her you won’t find it here. There are no secondary storylines here, this is strictly how Maya and her colleagues working tirelessly and continuously to find Osama Bin Laden.

    We watch her evolution from that first torture scene, from a smart-suited observer and wet around the ears, to several years later into her tenure in Pakistan, where she now leads the interrogation and taps a strong-arm to do the punching for her.
    The movie turns into the ultimate procedural, in which computer work, matching photographs, and one seeming irrelevancy after another in an old interrogation video lead Maya to a man known as Abu Ahmed, who, at regular intervals, drives a white S.U.V. from Peshawar to a house in Abbottabad. It's takes an half an hour before we first hear a name we recognize, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, the trusted bin Laden courier who will eventually lead the CIA to their mark. Though at this point in the film, victory is still years away. Over the course of a decade, Maya finds promising leads that turn into dead ends, and then unpromising little tidbits that turn into even better leads. It’s imprecise work that requires meticulous attention to detail and not much of a private life.

    Progress is slow in "Zero Dark Thirty,” but the flow of information is fast and continuous, and the movie doesn't wait for you to catch up. There are more than 100 speaking parts--fellow analysts, CIA chiefs, national security advisers, and SEAL team members, many of them played by familiar faces. Characters enter for a scene or two, and just as quickly disappearing--sometimes before we have had a chance to register who they really are. Sometimes Bigelow don't even tell us the names, because she puts enough trust in the audience to assume we'll have a working knowledge of who the major players are. The coldness in tone changes drastically during the final act, when Bin Laden's compound is breached. Suddenly a wealth of emotions hits you, your gaze is unwavering, and the suspense is overwhelming. Even knowing how the story ends, it doesn't change the immense power of the final minutes.

    “Zero Dark Thirty” is a film that most Americans will no doubt embrace their patriotism enthusiastically, while others might have misgivings about the use of torture on detainees. But the film's depiction of such torture doesn't condone it; it's a record of it, as part of the narrative jigsaw drawn from those who were involved.
    Jessica Chastain delivers an Oscar worthy performance-powerfully and defiantly standing own her own, and never backing down despite years of exasperating obstacles. An absorbing richly textured portrayal of a dark, pivotal chapter in American history that forever changed our lives.
    Expand
  8. Jun 20, 2013
    10
    The best movie of the year, Zero Dark Thirty flawlessly builds up the tension until the grand finale. Bigelow's directing creates a film with grand scale while also paying attention to details. Former journalist Mark Boal once again writes an airtight screenplay that intelligently tells this important story. The raid scene was brilliantly done with no music behind the images and the night vision shooting, this helped me be immersed in the movie and feel like I was there. This film also has stirred up controversy and sparked heated debates, which is a feature of great movies most of the time. Great movies cause us to question our worldview, which is precisely what Zero Dark Thirty does. Expand
  9. May 25, 2013
    10
    Precise, flawless and one of the best films of the 2012. The second consecutive masterpiece of Ms. Bigelow and Mr. Boal after "The Hurt Locker". It's a great achievement in directing, acting, script and editing.
    "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."
    Manhola Dargis, The New York Times.
    "As a moral statement, Zero Dark Thirty is borderline fascistic. As a piece of cinema, it's phenomenally gripping an unholy masterwork." David Edelstein, New York Magazine (Vulture)
    Expand
  10. May 21, 2013
    9
    I thought this was one of the best films of the year. It was visually pleasing, had a great story line, had a great actress, and really informed you on what actually happened in the finding of Osama Bin Laden. Movies that make you feel emotion are good. This movie made me feel pissed about the people who did nothing. This is why it was a great movie. I gave it a 9/10 because it was not the best of the year. Expand
  11. Apr 27, 2013
    10
    Zero Dark Thirty is a perfect film a movie that reflects America's patriotism and faith in a woman wanting to capture the most wanted man in the world dotod is a movie full of action drama and a magnificent Final voltage Jessica Chastain this spectacular
  12. Apr 26, 2013
    9
    intense movie comes final conclusion of iraq freedom. this good movie can be slow but last 30 minutes of are epic. this movie is pretty good and story pretty good
  13. Apr 20, 2013
    9
    Nice The movie was so nice and good. I love it.
  14. Apr 6, 2013
    10
    Having now watched ZDT twice my appreciation has increased. It's really quite masterful as a work of film making, maybe the best of 2012. But it's not an easy film to watch for those expecting hyper action or in your face acting. Jessica Chastain was expertly cast as an obsessive agent who spent years trying to discover the whereabouts of UBL. While the torture scenes were tough to watch I never felt the film glorified it as a means of extracting info. The slow build up to the raid was perfectly timed. And even a second time around the final compound scenes were thrilling. No wonder it was bestowed with Oscar nominations. Expand
  15. Mar 24, 2013
    9
    Very good. Picking ARGO over this film for Best of the Year is like picking a butter knife over a gleaming Bowie's blade: if all you want to do is spread butter, both will work, but don't insult our intellects by saying the butter knife is better in any way except it's SAFER.
  16. Mar 21, 2013
    9
    Saw this movie for the first time just a couple of days ago. After hearing about it for so long, I expected a lot and it delivered. It's one of the best portrayals of the manhunt to find and kill OBL that I've seen. Not long ago, I saw a report on In Focus Martin Sheen about the SEAL museum and I gained a real respect for what these guys do... Zero Dark Thirty enhanced that even more.
  17. Mar 8, 2013
    10
    Like Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln, Jessica Chastain was perfect in this film. I was 13 years old when September 11th happened, It was my first glimpse of hatred in this world. For many kids my age we felt our innocence taken away from us on that day. "Who would do such a thing to our country and why?" Was a thought i wrestled with for weeks. For me, Zero Dark Thirty was an insight into the situation that left many of us feeling helpless. The torture in this film brought some controversy to it, Is it saying torture helped? I don't think so. I think that part of the film was used to show the tenderness of Chastain's character. A strong woman living in a world dominated by violence and men. In the end, it was Chastain's never quite attitude and determination to find Americas number one enemy that prevailed. The Raid was very effective. I remember being so into it as if we were really watching OBL coming to his end. Powerful Film. Expand
  18. Mar 2, 2013
    10
    A film 10 years in the making had better be good, a concept I held with John Carter, a film 100 years in the making. Unfortunately John Carter was horrendous and let down its literary background. Zero Dark Thirty doesn't have the luxury of being a fictional story or being a story so old its original fans grand kids are in their sixties. It pretty much had to be excellent, didn't it? The film follows CIA analyst Maya (Jessica Chastain) in her search for Osama Bin Laden following 9/11. The film spans a decade in the search through two administrations, torture, tragedy and heartbreak. The answer to that question by the way is unequivocally yes. Zero Dark Thirty is a taut clever thriller with a devastating lead performance by Chastain. The film not only follows the hunt for Bin Laden but it also tells the tale of a woman so hell bent on one goal that it slowly but surely breaks her down. It's not just a search for justice, justice found through dubious means for that matter, but a film that looks at the psychological toll a search like this can have on those conducting it. It's a movie I found myself very involved in, a film which makes you want to yell at the screen (you will know what scene) and a film that will leave you gratified but also a little bit fried, which I can only imagine was the point, for the viewer to feel like Maya. Screenwriter Mark Boal and Director Katheryn Bigelow have created a unique thriller that is extremely guarded and insular while never lacking in substance. The cast is excellent with Chastain giving a career high performance. However she is also supported by other actors bringing their A game from Jennifer Ehle to Jason Clarke. Ehle plays well opposite Chastain as a straight laced analyst whose nativity doesn't really suit her job. Clarke is the most interesting character in the film, a very closed off torturer who begins to tire of the constant brutality. The characters are beautifully written and equally well acted. The direction ensures the tension never really stops throughout the film and it keeps your interest throughout making for an exceptional viewing experience. A worthy follow up to The Hurt Locker and worthy of all the Oscar praise it is receiving. Expand
  19. Mar 1, 2013
    9
    The only people offended by this movie would be those who were part of Al Quada and were greatly affected by the death of their comrade, Osama Bin Laden. I can't tell you how many times I fantasized about the main character in the film. But its overall a good movie but there is not much action its mostly storytelling until the last 20-30 mins. of the film. But its definitely worth a watch.
  20. Feb 18, 2013
    9
    I've been complaining about the lack of the ultimate movie about the 9/11 for quite a long time. I don't complain anymore, the tragic event finally has its masterpiece.
  21. Feb 18, 2013
    10
    Why are there bad reviews? THE MOVIE IS AWESOME, by far the best movie of 2012. It makes the Dark Knight Rises look like Garbage for little Kids.
  22. Feb 16, 2013
    10
    Zero dark thirty was a great experience for me, I really liked Joel's acting in the film. Even though the film is about the greatest manhunt in history which some people will thing is boring) the film has good pace, it picks up fast and it's a thriller documentary which leaves you hanging. From the exotic places to the nutty warfares, Zero Dark Thirty is a 10/10 movie for me.
  23. Feb 16, 2013
    9
    Zero Dark Thirty is one of those rarer than rare films that challenges its audience while entertaining it. While thrilling in its execution the assault on bin Laden's compound is unforgettably suspenseful and exciting it's disturbing in its depiction of "harsh interrogation", and demands of us that we answer: we tortured to get our enemy; does justice prime morality? Was it worth it? Must hail Jessica Chastain, who deserves the Oscar in a very strong field. A brilliant and unique film. Expand
  24. Feb 13, 2013
    10
    Gritty stuff. Facts aside, you couldn't pen a script that seethes as much as the true story behind the hunt for Bin Laden. Weaved together are historical boiling points from around the globe that lead to the climactic crescendo of how the went down. The frame of the puzzle is laid in the first half of the film, then as the connections are made the tension builds to whistle-boiling intensity as the final act begins. You don't need to be an American to realise the impact of the actions contained in the storyline, the direction from Bigelow and the admirable tenacity given over by Chastain grab your attention and build the wholly thrilling journey to an applaud worthy crescendo. Movie of the year! Expand
  25. Feb 10, 2013
    9
    I really am having trouble understanding the lack of love for this film. I tend to be on the same wavelength when there's such a discrepancy between critical and public opinion of a film or game, but I'm baffled this time. The acting is quite solid. Apart from a convincing performance from Jason Clarke as an alternately brutal and casual CIA agent and an unbelievably affecting and believable performance from Reda Kateb as captive/torture-victim Ammar, I don't think that anyone deserved any awards because there have been several tour de force films recently released that can't be ignored, but I wouldn't criticise any of the performances of any of the actors at all.

    For the most part I found the story compelling and tense. We can debate the accuracy of the plot until the cows come home, but at the end of the day there are few that can conclusively say what did and what didn't happen. At any rate, I wasn't watching this under the pretence that it was the gospel according to Kathryn Bigelow, I was watching it because I wanted to see an action/thriller about a series of pivotal events that I happen to have been alive for. Yes there are parts where dramatic license is apparent, but find me a film where that isn't the case. All that aside, from what I've read, the final assault on the compound is portrayed very very closely to how it actually went down, which is a detail that I greatly appreciated.

    But at the end of the day, the thing that really makes this movie shine is the direction. Finding a single man in Pakistan is like finding a needle in a haystack, especially if he doesn't wish to be found. Bigelow managed to make 5 years of exactly this into a rather tense experience. From innocuous conversations interrupted by terrorist bombings, to the fevered search for a single man on a cell-phone amongst a market full of men on cell-phones, to the is-he-or-isn't-he-a-threat suspicion of every contact they meet, the film is handled with great talent. I'm not intending to be sexist, but it's not often you see a female director take hold of such a film and pull it off in such a mature and deft way. And lastly, the final assault on the compound is filmed in realistic darkness and completely without music. The scene lasts almost exactly as long as the real-life event, and there are some striking and chilling shots of soldiers befitted with night vision skulking in the darkness. To repeat myself, I can't understand the discrepancies between public and critical opinion this time round, and I think that this film deserves much more respect that it's getting.
    Expand
  26. Feb 3, 2013
    10
    Great CIA movie with a few amazing action scenes. The fact that it actually happened makes it even more worthwhile! I'd recommend it to anyone and everyone!
  27. Feb 3, 2013
    9
    One of the best films I have seen for a while. Although running time is long, I was engaged throughout and wanted to see more. Kathryn Bigelow provides a gripping account of the events between 9/11 and Bin Laden being killed which proves to be a fascinating story. Jessica Chastain puts in a brilliant performance, although I didn't expect anything less. Top stuff.
  28. Feb 1, 2013
    10
    The best performance of the year (Jessica Chastain) in the best movie of the year. The narrative in the beginning is, however, sort of stiff. But in this case, it is actually in favor of the movie, catching the frustration and length of the hunt for bin laden. And I thing Kathryn Bigalow does a great job by not judging the torture scenes, leaving the viewer to decide on his own whether this is justified. The final scene is just terrifically staged, a haunting sequence, even as we know the outcome. A must see. Expand
  29. BKM
    Jan 30, 2013
    9
    Zero Dark Thirty spans 10 years and two presidential administrations in its depiction of the hunt for 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. Naturally there's a lot of material to cover and a single viewing probably can't put everything into the proper perspective. Still, Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Marc Boal keep things moving along at a fluid pace and the tension is never less than palpable despite the fact that we know how it's going to end. Jessica Chastain is superb as the agent who devotes herself unfailingly to the elimination of bin Laden, only to be left with the realization that the price may have been her own humanity. Expand
  30. Jan 27, 2013
    9
    Amazingly made film! Kathryn Bigelow's direction is technically perfect, and Mark Boal matched this with a honest, and very realistic screenplay. Jessica Chastain is perfect at playing a passionate and frustrated officer, in fact there isn't a bad acting performance in the whole film. The only downside.... the ending, we didn't need the last 5 minutes, but I can forgive for this. The quality of the film is of the highest standard! A must see film. Expand
  31. Jan 27, 2013
    9
    Great film. Beautifully shot and compelling throughout, despite the fact that the bulk of the action is confined to the final act. The performances were great, especially Chastain as Maya. I did not get the impression that the film was promoting any particular viewpoint, but instead presented information and allowed the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions. There seem to be a lot of reviewers who made up their minds that they would hate this for one reason or another before even seeing it. That's too bad. Unfortunately many of these people saw fit to publish their biased and uninformed positions in this forum. I would urge you to ignore them and see the film for yourself. Expand
  32. Jan 24, 2013
    10
    Zero Dark Thirty is a masterful work of filmmaking that demonstrates the painful and long journey of one of the greatest manhunts in history. Osama bin Laden orchestrated the attack at the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001 and killed around 3,000 civilians and we hunted him for the next 10 years. Kathryn Bigelow has directed a thrilling and exciting epic that gives us true people in a true situation as they try to hunt down possibly the most wanted enemy our country has ever seen. As I watched this movie I felt a certain tension inside me, I mean if you have ever watched the news before we all know they succeed in their mission, but it Expand
  33. Jan 23, 2013
    9
    An intense adult drama from beginning to end. If you prefer action over dialogue, don't worry because Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Willis all have movies currently in theaters or coming soon for you to waste your money on instead.
  34. Jan 22, 2013
    10
    Technically sound, meticulous, and gripping. I suppose I can understand people's complaints about the rather slow feel of the film, but I believe that was the intent. Bigelow set out to not only make a film about the hunt for Bin Laden, but to create a metaphor linking this hunt to the war in general. Sure this film will not appeal to everyone, but if you have a deep appreciation for the visual artistry that film can offer, then you can greatly respect Bigelow and her efforts to make this landmark film. One thing I can say for sure is that: YOU SHOULDN'T EXPECT TO ENJOY THIS MOVIE. It's meant to be a bit melancholy and leave you pensive, asking yourself: "Was it worth it?" or "Did we even win?" Expand
  35. Jan 21, 2013
    9
    The direction, cinematography, and editing are above reproach, and the film is riveting. But there is little for the mind here and less for the heart. Rather than a story about terrorism, it's a story about an obsessed female agent, and Ms. Chastain, however effective, is no Claire Danes.
  36. Jan 21, 2013
    10
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Zero Dark Thirty is now one of my favorite military films. The best part of this film was the accuracy of the events that transpired and the realness of the characters. There were a few short scenes that really stood out to me.
    The interrogation of Ammar showed that the US military are not cliche Super-Man heroes, they are anti-heroes, as much of what they do is in the morally gray area, but they do what they believe needs to be done for good of the country.
    When they are storming OBL's fortress, and Justin stops to look at the husband and wife he killed, it shows that the Special Forces aren't a bunch of heartless meat heads.
    Also, the fact that they double tapped everyone they killed was a great addition that they surprisingly do not include in most, if any, Special Ops films.
    Expand
  37. Jan 21, 2013
    9
    Pretty damn good! Chastain did a very fine job with a strong supporting cast. We may not learn much more about Bin Laden and further details on Al-Qaeda, but we are served with satisfaction in the exhilarating final 30 minute raid. I knock this one down from perfect status only for it's length.....in places it slugs along only to be jazzed up with an explosion here and there. All in all, it's a fine film that will stick with you. Expand
  38. Jan 20, 2013
    9
    Yes clearly movie attention spans are being simplified thanks to jersey shore and honey boo boo. The movie never really felt slow but it has a steady pace. It creates an interesting jigsaw puzzle that stretches our core beliefs as Americans and how we were supposed to act in order to fight the War on Terror. It shows every little detail and subsequent acts that the Western world had to endure. Was some of it possibly fictionalized, perhaps but none the less everything felt genuine. The final 30 minutes of the assault are riveting. Go see it. Expand
  39. Jan 20, 2013
    10
    A truly great film,the story moves along at a even pace, highlighting key moments in the search for bin laden,culminating in a not so Hollywood battle scene at the end,which adds a much more realistic feel to the film.
    The performances are brilliant,particularly Jason Clarke who in my opinion gets better with each film i watch him in.
    its a good story, i would imagine not a totaly true
    account,but then when i watch a film i am looking to be entertained not have questions answered....ill watch the discovery channel for that. Expand
  40. Jan 20, 2013
    9
    Zero Dark Thirty is more than skin deep; this film forces the active viewer to reinterpret their ethical priorities. In addition to excellent filmmaking, Zero Dark Thirty delivers a metal fitness course for those who are willing.
  41. Jan 20, 2013
    9
    Excellent, and the audience I was in even clapped at the end. Yes, it does have about 20 minutes more than is usually good for moving the movie along but it is definintely worth the wait. Liberals will really hate this movie because it doesn't paint the world as they utopia they want to live in. I am surprised Hollywood let this one out; of course it doesn't stand a chance to win awards because it isn't about social justice but real evil in the world. Expand
  42. Jan 19, 2013
    10
    I feel like a lot of people went into this thinking it was going to be some type of fast paced thrill ride like its predecessor, Hurt Locker, or its Oscar competitor, Argo, so when it was a 2.5 hr story that had little no action it people were in a word, disappointed. This is in large part the fault of the marketing team, who made it out to be something that it wasn't. Not to mention its emphasis on the use of torture by the CIA operatives which bothered so many. So all the 0 reviews are rather misplaced in my opinion.

    Now to the film itself. From the standpoint of film making, there is little criticize about this. Bigelow's directing, Chastain's performance, the writing, all summed up to a fantastically made film. In my opinion, it should win Best Picture for 2012, but its not far and away better than Argo, Lincoln, or Silver Linings Playbook.

    All in all, Zero Dark Thirty is a fantastic film, all be it not as satisfying as the Hurt Locker, that should be appreciated for its display of artistic film making, acting, and story telling, rather than not being the action movie that the public thought it was.
    Expand
  43. Jan 19, 2013
    10
    Kathryn Bigelow has done it again. A poignant, intense, honest and personal story that juxtaposes the sophistication and shortcomings of our ever evolving military. It doesn't, as many critics have touted, 'glorify torture.' Rather, it portrayed our use of 'enhanced interrogation techniques' in a way that leaves it up to the viewer to decide if the ends justify the means. Jessica Chastain delivers a tour de force performance. At times raw and emotional, but never grisly or exploitative, I highly recommend this movie. Expand
  44. Jan 19, 2013
    10
    Per other reviews, I believe the film was not tedious. An intricate road was formed by Bigelow to lead the viewer to the promise land. I was thoroughly entertained for all 2.5 hours of this film. There are scenes that draw you to the edge of your seat without letting you down for even a second. The final scene of the film was shot perfect. Contrary to popular belief, the operation was no bang boom bag'em and tag'em operation. It was great to see a film take so many risks. 9/10 Expand
  45. Jan 19, 2013
    10
    Bigelow's new film is an example of (what it seems to me) a new trend, new wave for the American film production. It is about time for some things to start to change! ZDT is not pretentious moral story carefully crafted and polished to be liked by large infantile and sterile audiences! ZDT is not a compromise and it is not conclusive, it doesn't make it's own statements, it doesn't provide quick and false answers and it doesn't take moral stand behind what it depicts which is by my opinion its greatest strength. This is not sterile work like many amusement-seeking moviegoers and "eminent" journalists wished it to be! Are Boal and Bigelow to be blamed that these consumers won't be able to see Maya's chin and nose up in the air as the proud motherf**ker who killed bin Laden? NO!!! And what they get at the end? Only Maya's tears!
    ZDT is intellectually challenging work of art, meant to trigger conversation, to provide options. It insists that people should be able to build their own opinions about what they see. I completely understand that some of those opinions may not be positive, i get that. But claiming that ZDT with all of its ambiguity is just a propaganda or that it glorifies torture, is desperate, outrageous, conservative and shameful backlash! As a cinematic experience it is thrilling, dark, mournful, strange and uncompromisingly beautiful! As an artistic achievement I see it as ingenious polemical statement against the Hollywood based dis-empowerment of the spectator! As a screenplay and dialogue, it is a work of a genius since it provides the audience with political ambiguity and ambivalence. As a film, it is probably one of the greatest American films ever made. Thank you Bigelow and thank you Boal for this bold masterpiece.
    Expand
  46. Jan 16, 2013
    10
    Damn fine entertainment. This movie grabbed hold of me from minute one and never let me go for 2 hours 40 minutes. As advertised, it's a dramatization of the 10 year manhunt for the most wanted terrorist in history. As such, it can't and won't answer all your questions about the search for and eventual killing of Bin Laden. It has come in for some heavy criticism for depicting torture as a key tactic of the CIA. However, as Bigelow correctly states, to downplay the torture of al Qaeda operatives would have been to whitewash history. In the early stages, it does feel like there is an emphasis on this aspect. Was that the intention, and if so, why? The fact is, like it or not, people were tortured by the CIA for information. It made me wonder if it's possible that without the use of water boarding and such tactics, OBL might still be alive and free. Some of the reviewers here clearly don't get it, but I think that's more of a reflection on them than the movie. This film is well written, well acted and expertly directed. But you'll need something resembling a brain to enjoy it. Expand
  47. Jan 16, 2013
    10
    If your a red blooded patriotic American and not freaked out by the sight of terrorists having a little water dribbled on their face your going to love this film. If your thin skinned ACLU dues paying liberal your still going to love this film, (but for all the wrong reasons.) If you are squeamish at the sight of intense violence you might have to cover your eyes for big chunks of this film but see it anyway because its that great. Adapting a major historical event (especially one shrouded in classified information) to the big screen and making it totally plausible and so compelling you don't want it's 2 hours and 40 minutes to end is a minor miracle. I'll pay full fare to see it again this weekend. Expand
  48. Jan 16, 2013
    10
    Fantastic film. And if you don't believe it, my friend, this is how it's gonna go down. I'm going to hold you down, stuff a rag down your throat and pour water up your nose. You will like this film sooner or later. How soon is up to you.
  49. Jan 15, 2013
    9
    Reading the user reviews it seems more and more obvious that the attention span of the average viewer keeps shrinking. Apparently if there is no action or character development then the watching gets dreary. Thinking no longer seems an option? Learning either? In this excellent movie we get a good overview of the pursuit of Bin Laden, as the clues are hunted down and many discarded except the one most successful clue pursued obsessively by a few. As a history buff I love a good historical detective story and this is one, but if your thing is Super heroes; robots; endless violence and bathroom humor don't bother. Expand
  50. Jan 15, 2013
    10
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Truly the film that defines a decade of politics. A thrilling and fascinating account of the hunt for the most wanted man in History. Jessica Chastain's performance was great! She was a cold and calculating CIA operative who spent years dedicated to finishing her mission. She was tough and did not care who's face she got into as long as she was able to stay the course on Bin Laden. Her final scene showed the pain and anguish of someone who's life work came to an end in one night and she was now faced with an uncertain future. Zero Dark Thirty is a film that must be seen. A+ Expand
  51. Jan 14, 2013
    10
    An important film. Subtly brilliant and perfectly thrilling, Zero Dark Thirty is beautifully paced; at a near 3 hour running time, the film moves along nicely, never dragging. Mark Boal wrote a terrific script; it's dense and might include a little too much information, but I felt like that gave the film another level of authenticity. The performances are flawless. Jessica Chastain is incredible; she plays the character wonderfully and her performance is worthy of every praise it's getting. The supporting cast is perfect as well, Jason Clarke stood out to me. Kathryn Bigelow's direction is what really makes this film special though. Her vision and attention to detail is admirable and it truly elevates the experience. The film builds to a thrilling ending that ranks among the most intense endings I've ever seen. It's ironic actually because I (roughly) know how this story ends, but the last 40 minutes or so are thrilling nonetheless. Powerfully acted, wonderfully directed, and brilliantly written, Zero Dark Thirty is easily one of the absolute best films of 2012! Expand
  52. Jan 13, 2013
    9
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Overall this was a great movie the only upsetting part of it was at the end the mission to kill bin Laden was not Navy S.E.A.L team six it seemed like they were left out of a lot of movies that they should have been in. (Black Hawk Down!) Expand
  53. Jan 13, 2013
    9
    In "Zero Dark Thirty," any inkling of controversy or artificiality is ironed out by a masterfully crafted narrative, an unbelievable performance from Jessica Chastain, and an uncommonly methodical tone that effortlessly weaves the audience throughout a web of complexity.
  54. Jan 13, 2013
    10
    Amazing! A gripping plot. great action. complex and dynamic. one of, if not the best film out right now. Dramatised in some ways but if it wasn't would just be a documentary. A must see for any REAL movie lover.
  55. Jan 13, 2013
    10
    Easily the best picture of 2012. Anyone marking this film down has to have been inebriated. How do you tell a story that everyone knows the keynotes to, definitely knows the ending, all while keeping them interested throughout? Not an easy task, but it does help if you have Jessica Chastain to rely on. We forget that real people play the biggest roles in these kind of things. Tension, humor, unease, shock, passion, vengeance, triumph. Expand
  56. Jan 12, 2013
    9
    It's not a documentary! There that's to all the people saying they didn't learn something about this or that, or they wanted to know how this or that. .Or arguing about whether torture is ok or not. It's a movie, very, very loosely based on what happened.
  57. Jan 12, 2013
    9
    Kathryn Bigelow's ability to portray the moral complexities of modern warfare in a way that feels fresh and even handed, is worth recognition. Her biggest accomplishment is never letting the audience forget that warfare involves humans doing awful things to other humans. The soldiers aren't faceless brutes, and Al Qaeda isn't reduced to religious fanatics. Everybody's humanity is preserved, which makes the violence that more haunting. That being said, the film is more shallow than The Hurt Locker, probably because the narrative is of a bigger scope, which allows less screen time to delve into the psyche of the characters. Expand
  58. Jan 12, 2013
    9
    Kathryn Bigelow has done it again. Zero Dark Thirty is a triumph, that doesn't get bogged down by politically incorrect material that it chooses to use. The scenes of torture, combined with some excellent acting from Jessica Chastain had me hooked from the beginning, but it wasn't until the end of the movie, at the very last scene, when I realized that, like the Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty is just another character study of an important person that is put into events bigger than they can imagine. Yes, the movie is about catching and killing OBL, but what makes ZDT so good is how Chastain's character changes through the years in her obsession to find one of the worst men in recent history. Yes, people are going to be ignorant and give it zeroes for a score because maybe they were bored or they just hate when critics love a movie, but those people are wrong. This movie deserves the praise it's getting, because it's a tribute to an historic event in our history, has incredible acting, and is more than what you make it out to be. This was the first movie in awhile that after the credits roll, I just sat there for five minutes and processed all that I saw. Don't let the haters keep you away, this is an excellent movie and should be seen by every American citizen. Expand
  59. Jan 11, 2013
    10
    this movie is the example of how a good movie have to be. Is incredibly emotional and beastly. You feel stressed in the final part of the movie but is a good stress. fantastic and highly recommended
  60. Jan 11, 2013
    9
    As a film, I really enjoyed it. It is engaging from beginning to end. This is not an action film, it's an attempt at a slightly dramatized re-enactment.

    However, I don't feel like the government should have authorized this material for the masses.
  61. Jan 10, 2013
    10
    Endlessly fascinating. For me the ambiance was like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with more powerful action scenes and a faster rhythm. We are lucky to have a master film maker produce a movie like this for now and for posterity. It is just so strong, so many excellent scenes filled with more and more and more information and emotion always moving forward to an end we all know but thru a process we did not. A must see for serious citizens and serious film lovers. Expand
  62. Jan 9, 2013
    10
    Excellent movie! hands down the best movie of 2012. full of suspense with a great performance from Jessica Chastain and wonderful direction from kathryn bigelow
  63. Jan 9, 2013
    10
    Loved this movie. Anyone giving it a 0-1 hates their lives. who cares if the real life soldiers are exactly the same? I was in the military and even the special forces were mostly nerds and no Where near the size you would think. The acting was excellent and bigelow lived up to the hurt locker. The "torture scenes weren't even remotely hard to watch. If you have half a brain and don't have attention deficit disorder go see this movie ASAP. Expand
  64. Jan 8, 2013
    9
    The film is very good, and pretty misunderstood. Seems some people knock either as a pro -american ra ra thing, and it just can't be possible that they've seen the movie if that's the case. The theme of the movie is the dreariness of the whole "terror war" enterprise, from torture to the event of the uninspiring killing of bin laden; when the emotional focus of that closing scene are the crying children in the house and the sort of conflicted response of some of the navy seals.. the lead characters ambiguous response too at the end, with tears of no joy, implies the emptiness and moral ambiguity of her chase. This is a movie about the strong moral ambiguities of US foreign policy, and the US isn't portrayed as particularly inspiring. Maya's determination is respected by Bigelow, but that's the extent of it, just her determination. The film is not perfect, and Chaisten lacks the gravitas for the part i think (imagine Claire Danes character for Homeland as Maya, and the film would have been close to perfect). But I think it's a strong statement about the bleakness of America's terror war, using that "wars" most "exciting" moment to provide its context. Expand
  65. Jan 8, 2013
    9
    Though this movie could have easily been titled "Homeland: The Movie," it is excellent nonetheless. I also understand that some will be turned off by the prolific use of torture in the film. Those scenes are disturbing and meant to be. But anyone who doesn't think this film is honest in what it is portraying is either overly partisan or just not honest with themselves. Even though we all know the end, the movie develops a tension towards that end which is palpable. Chastain is wonderful in the lead role. It shares the same gritty cinematography as the Hurt Locker, but for me, it was a more interesting story, perhaps because so much of it is behind the scenes. Expand
  66. Jan 6, 2013
    10
    A perfect movie. Tension is built thorough the entire movie so that by the time the last 30 minutes is left, your heart will be pounding.Great acting all around, Chastain is wonderful, best actor win for sure, wait and see.
  67. Jan 6, 2013
    9
    After seeing this film all I can say is.... wow. She knocked it out of the park again. Kathryn Bigelow created a drama that involves almost the entire war on terror, although may seem dragged out to some, seems totally necessary to me. Two wars, 6,616 American troops killed, and one mastermind of terror brought down. The scenes of torture may seem too intense for some but are needed to convey the action took to bring down this man. Jessica Chastain gives an Academy award worthy portrayal of the CIA agent Maya that will leave an impact on you. I seriously recommend that any American who was impacted over the last decade by 9/11 or the war on terror to go see this. It will put things into prospective.

    Best film of 2012 by far and away.
    Expand
  68. Jan 5, 2013
    9
    Excellent movie that is likely closer to the real truth than the goverment and CIA would like you to believe. More thriller and less Expendables....but a must see nonetheless. An important movie.
  69. Dec 28, 2012
    10
    Zero Dark Thirty is a masterwork film. It's the shortest 2 hour 40 minute film I've ever seen. Director Kathryn Bigelow films have an inexplicable, almost unholy ability to grip you, from start to finish.
  70. Dec 23, 2012
    10
    This movie is great. Deals with the real life issue that happened just over a year ago and the result is a very well-done thriller. Jessica Chastain is amazing in this, glad to see what's to come for her.
  71. Dec 21, 2012
    10
    Amazing . This is not a triumphant story in their telling, but it is one uncommonly freighted with the weight of history.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.
  72. Dec 20, 2012
    10
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Simply outstanding. Kathryn Bigelow, now that she's made the character-driven Hurt Locker and this phenomenally-paced thriller, has positioned herself as the dramatic chronicler of record in modern American warfare. No, she's not covering this stuff comprehensively, but the dramatic choices she makes, the slices she and her writers have focused on, so effectively tell the story of this era that I was thinking that we're lucky to have her as the credits of ZDT rolled. Chastain, the chameleon, is terrific in the film and will rightly be praised through the awards season. But I want to give special praise to Jason Clarke, who I've appreciated so thoroughly in Brotherhood and The Chicago code - he was an inspired casting choice. The enhanced interrogation sequences are technically no more difficult to watch than similar scenes in other films (most recently Safe House), but Clarke's ability to represent the interrogator's calculated pinballing between brutality and humanity is powerful. It's not a short movie, but I was riveted throughout. My audience gave the film a modest round of applause. I think they were more stunned by what they had just seen than anything else. Expand
  73. Dec 19, 2012
    10
    First thing's first: Jessica Chastain is smoking hot. Now that I've gotten that off my chest, how is the rest of the movie? Pretty damn good. I would compare Zero Dark Thirty to a film like Inception in that you will be amazed by the sheer film-making talent and attention to detail that is on display here, but the lack of characters to latch on to will leave some viewers cold. The only character that you will feel any affinity towards is the protagonist Maya, and even she doesn't exactly come off as loveable. However this shortcoming is more than offset by the movie's strengths. The script is tight, the mood is often tense, and even though you know how it all ends, you find yourself completely sucked in by the engrossing events. The only reason I can think of that anyone would give this film a negative review is if they have something against America. Unfortunately I've read numerous forums and reviews and there are tons of bitter people who fill the net with their anti-American dogma instead of simply evaluating the film as a piece of artistic media. But if you're willing to set your prejudices aside and can appreciate the craftsmanship that went into making this movie, you'll be blown away. Expand
  74. Dec 19, 2012
    10
    A Cinematic masterpiece with the technical and emotional skill of a cubist painting, Zero Dark Thirty is a genre-creating film that is touchstone of modern cinema.
  75. Dec 19, 2012
    9
    I think we all remember 9/11 and the announcement that Bin Laden had been killed, but none of us knew the true order of events in between and the granular detail of the missions. Zero Dark Thirty provides a truly gripping account of the ten year manhunt for the most dangerous man of our time. This is her best work to date and its honest dialogue and compelling acting allow the audience to feel everything that anyone involved experienced. Expand
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.