Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Zero Dark Thirty (2012) DVD / Blu-ray

By: Bill Arceneaux (A Toast) –

Has anyone reading this watched Planet Terror? You know; the first half of the Grindhouse double feature? There’s a scene near the end when our heroes confront a rogue military leader played by Bruce Willis. He gives them a backstory, where he reveals that he had killed Osama bin Laden, and was punished by his government for doing so. “I put two in his heart, and one in his computer”.

And, with a smirk, he proclaims “Yeah. That was me”. The idea of Bruce Fucking Willis killing one of the most wanted men in the world is gloriously bad ass. If any American were to be asked how they would like bin Laden taken care of, that might be one of the top answers.

Of course, we all know that isn’t how it ended in real life. Wait – has anything ended?


You know he enjoyed saying that line.

I don’t really need to describe the plot of “Zero Dark Thirty”. It is basically a no frills account of the hunt for bin Laden, from 9/11 to the raid that got him. CIA agent Maya (Jessica Chastain) spends years on the case, following a lead that proves fruitful. The only conflict/concern in the film is FIND HIM.

A Toast

For a movie about one of the most important operations in modern history, it really plays things straight. I once suggested that if Hollywood were to make a film about this, they contact WWE Studios, and let them do an Expendables movie. Why not have fun with it?

Well, probably because this was pretty damn serious. With a subject so sensitive, you must tread lightly. But the public wants to see how it went down AND be entertained at the same time. They want to relive the excitement they felt when President Obama made the announcement. Catharsis on demand.

Well, sorry to disappoint, but the best thing about this movie is how it takes that joy away. Yes, the raid sequence is awesome, with unparalleled suspense and tension, but the moment you all want to see happens in a flash. No slo mo with dramatic music, no superimposed American flag; only cold darkness and silence. And the Seals move on afterwards. This is so bold, as it would’ve been easy and slightly cheap to just feed into that wanting for clear cut, bloody vengeance.


No time for frills.

The other high point of this film is the character Maya. I type the word character in the loosest way possible, as, well, we don’t know much about her. No last name, no family history, no personal ties to 9/11 known (which would also have been easy and cheap); just a burning desire to close this case. At one point, a superior tells her she is “chasing a ghost”. In my opinion, Maya IS a ghost. A pale skinned spirit, walking the Earth until she has accomplished this goal.

Once all is said and done, she boards a plane as the only passenger. When asked where she would like to go, she has no answer. This investigation defined her, and now it is over. Throughout the movie, she expresses little to no emotion over torture, drone strikes, personal dangers or even tragedy to friends. Here, she sheds a tear. I don’t think it’s because the chase has ended, but that there is nobody left for her to chase.


The ghost that walks.

A complicated protagonist and a non orgasmic climax – how come Bigelow wasn’t nominated for Best Director?



Don’t let the hub bub over “pro torture” sway your liberal side, as it is unfounded. And don’t buy a ticket expecting to see an Operation Kino-style massacre in the end. This movie tells its story in an unapologetically straight forward and intelligent way. Do expect to discuss what it means to you.


Drinking Game

Take a Drink: if you thought MichaelBay was better suited for this. In fact, drink some anti-freeze too, you prick.

Take a Drink: when Maya calls herself a “motherfucker”.

Do a Shot: if Bruce Willis killing bin Laden ran through your mind at any point during the movie.

About Bill Arceneaux

Independent film critic from New Orleans and member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA).


  1. Ahmed J. Almatrook

    Wow!! Amazing review, kudos to you Bill!

  2. YahDude© (@GatherRing)

    Seen it, loved it! Like Bill said, it’s an intelligently made movie. We discussed it for hours after we saw it and that is exactly what the makers intended in my humble opinion.

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