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Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

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A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L.s Team 6 in May 2011.

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1,053 ( 194)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 87 wins & 171 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Dan
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Jack
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Thomas
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J.J.
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Detainee on Monitor
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Detainee on Monitor
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Detainee on Monitor
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Detainee on Monitor
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Detainee on Monitor
Ali Marhyar ...
Interrogator on Monitor
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Interrogator on Monitor

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Storyline

Maya is a CIA operative whose first experience is in the interrogation of prisoners following the Al Qaeda attacks against the U.S. on the 11th September 2001. She is a reluctant participant in extreme duress applied to the detainees, but believes that the truth may only be obtained through such tactics. For several years, she is single-minded in her pursuit of leads to uncover the whereabouts of Al Qaeda's leader, Osama Bin Laden. Finally, in 2011, it appears that her work will pay off, and a U.S. Navy SEAL team is sent to kill or capture Bin Laden. But only Maya is confident Bin Laden is where she says he is. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

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For ten years one woman never stopped searching for the most wanted man in history See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence including brutal disturbing images, and for language | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

11 January 2013 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Kill Bin Laden  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$40,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$417,150 (USA) (21 December 2012)

Gross:

$95,720,716 (USA) (29 March 2013)
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1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Jessica Chastain's agents originally declined the role of Maya. Producer Megan Ellison, who had worked with Chastain on Lawless (2012), gave Kathryn Bigelow Chastain's phone number so she could personally offer her the role. Chastain accepted. See more »

Goofs

During the stand-off with the men on the motor bikes, the knob on the mini van's steering wheel changes position several times. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Dan: I own you, Ammar.
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Crazy Credits

All of the credits, except for the studio logo, appear at the end of the film, including the title. See more »


Soundtracks

Night Song
Written by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Performed by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Michael Brook
Courtesy of Real World Records
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Technically Impressive but Surprisingly Hollow

"Zero Dark Thirty" is a grim, clinical depiction of the CIA search for Osama bin Laden. Its strongest feature is its dramatization of the Navy Seal Team 6 operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that killed bin Laden. That sequence is so professionally shot it could be actual documentary footage.

"Zero" has no real plot. Episodic scenes occur in a choppy manner, one after the other. Scenes consist of depictions of beating and water boarding of detainees in order to gather information, agents stalking a suspect in Pakistan's crowded, chaotic bazaars, terrorist bombings, assassinations and assassination attempts. There are also scenes in offices where characters stare intently at computer screens or interrogation videos, and characters yell at each other and use obscenities, as their frustrating hunt for Osama bin Laden wears them down.

"Zero" makes no attempt to draw the viewer in with any human sentiment. Characters are given no backstory and no character arch. CIA agent Maya, played by Jessica Chastain, is the closest the film has to a main character. She reveals no affect. Her face is blank. She isn't so much robotic as inert. We know nothing about her, except that she was recruited to the CIA while in high school – we are never told what would draw the CIA to a high school student. I didn't care about this character at all. All I kept thinking was, "Jessica Chastain is being praised for *this* performance? Why?" The dullness of her performance, and the underwritten character, made it almost impossible for me to lose myself in the story, such as it was.

Jason Clarke is very strong and charismatic as Dan, a CIA interrogator. Dan humiliates, beats, and water boards suspects, and then feeds them delicious meals of hummus and olives when they deliver. His depiction of his work as just another job – he could be playing a bus driver with the same amount and degree of expressiveness – is provocative. I wish I had gone to see a film built around his character and his performance.

Overall, I was disappointed in the film. Feature films are an art form. I want them to do to me what drama can do. I want to be made to identify with a character and I want, through that identification, to learn more about life, or I want to be entertained. "Zero" did neither for me. I wasn't entertained, and my understanding and worldview were not expanded. I think the same material could have been better treated in a documentary with selective re-enactments.

"Zero Dark Thirty" sidesteps key questions. Maya sacrificed years of her life to the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Dan risks his humanity by making his living beating and humiliating other men. Men, women and children throughout the Muslim world, and, as the film makes clear, in America's and Europe's cities, are eager to blow themselves up, as long as they can take some infidels with them. Why? The film doesn't even acknowledge that there are people out there asking the question, never mind attempting to suggest an answer.

The film opens with audio from the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, suggesting that the war between Islam and the non-Muslim world dates from that attack. Not so. Islam increased its territory through jihad from its invention in the seventh century until September 11, 1683, at the Battle of Vienna. After that defeat, Islam stopped its spread. The significance of the date of September 11 goes back over four centuries.

America's founding fathers had to deal with jihad; see Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary Pirates. Some argue terrorism, including the 9-11 attack, is caused by Western imperialism. The solution to these thinkers is for the Western world to be nicer to non-Western nations, to practice multiculturalism and to share the wealth. Others argue that jihad is inextricable from Islam, and that one necessary step is for the West to recognize and cherish its own unique virtues – to cherish that for which its spies, soldiers, and citizens fight, sacrifice, kill and die.

"Zero Dark Thirty" never so much as brushes up against these questions. At its key moment, the film is hollow. We all know how the hunt ends – we all know Osama bin Laden is dead. "Zero" might have addressed why Maya gave the time of her life to that hunt, why Dan risked his humanity, why Seal Team 6 trained for years and risked their lives. "Zero" never does consider why these, who might have been the film's heroes, did what they did, and I walked out of the theater oddly unmoved by all the high tension and graphic violence I'd just sat through.


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