Zero Dark Thirty is the intense account of the 10 years the CIA spent on a quest for Osama Bin Laden. The film is powerful and has a strong cast of actors, but the script is too long and slow to keep the average movie-goer on the edge of their seat.
The cast for the film is phenomenal. From the leads to the unknown faces playing detainees, everyone is perfectly cast. Jessica Chastain even took home a Golden Globe for her portrayal as lead character Maya, the woman responsible for bringing Al-Queada down. There is no doubt she will also take home an Oscar for this performance. However, she is not the only one who deserves recognition for their performance in the movie. Jason Clarke definitely deserves praise for playing the lead interrogator of the dentainees.
The film is powerful from the very start, but will be uncomfortable and emotional for people who were directly affected by the attacks on September 11th. Instead of showing coverage of the World Trade Center attacks, director Katherine Bigalow chose to begin the film in complete blackness while the audience listens to 911 calls from inside the building of people who are very aware that their lives are most likely ending. It is heartbreaking and it makes you angry at the person who caused the fear in those people's voices, which was obviously its intention, but people who had friends and family in the towers may just be frustrated Bigalow decided to start the film this way. There are also several scenes of torture in the film, as well as several reinactments of bombings. The scenes are very well done.
Unfortunately, the script and directing choices make the film less strong than it could be. For example, in some parts of the film you can tell real footage is being used because it looks different than the rest of the movie. Although it is an interesting idea to mesh them together, it then becomes like a half-hearteded documentary. This has been a problem before in films like The Queen, when real footage of Diana's crash was meshed together with the actors' scenes. It weakens the film because the different pieces do not look the same. The largest problem with the script though is that it is, at times, choppy. There is a large segment that just chops from one terrorist attack to the next. It becomes predictable and lessens the panic. Each of these portions have the date written across the screen. After a while the audience is prepared that when they see a date there will be a bomb that accompanies it. There is no element of surprise. Also, the first time we see Maya she is watching Dan (Jason Clarke) waterboard a detainee. She is obviously extremely uncomfortable even though she wants to be a part of the interrogation. However, she is automatically a strong-willed no-nonsense woman a few minutes later. There is no gradual build. There is nothing that pushes her over the edge. Something was missing from her character development.
Zero Dark Thirty will definitely get under the skin of the people who watch it. Even though it is long, it is an impressive interpretation of the aftermath of the devastation in 2001. It could have used some character development and editing, but overall it is a good film.