From an historical perspective, Zero Dark Thirty is a good film to see for those who wish to learn more details about the raid on Osama Bin Laden, and the years of analysis and intelligence operations that led up to it. But from a pure movie making perspective, technically and substantively, it doesn’t match up to the greats of 2012, such as Lincoln, Life of Pi, Argo, The Master and others. Much like Lincoln, this movie was destined to earn an Oscar nomination based on the compelling subject matter alone. Only, Lincoln was better constructed, with crystal clear characters and better writing.
The main character is Maya, a young CIA operative who finds her nitch in history by being part of the search team that tracked Bin Laden and all his associates. As agency interest wanes after years of failure, she tenaciously pursues leads from which, along with the help of a local Pakistani who is working for the intelligence team, the compound is located and the raid commences.
Jessica Chastain does a credible acting job in the role of Maya, taking into account that so many dumb lines were not of her own choosing. “Because I’m the M—F— who found him!” “Go kill him for me.” Sorry, that and more, is amateur writing that simply doesn’t fit. Matter of fact, much of the acting by several character is over-acting.
One of my pet peeves in today’s movie-making world is the over use of close-ups and hand-held cameras. No lack of this is Zero Dark Thirty where the viewer is constantly in the face of characters without getting a perspective of setting. Then, the jiggling camera, especially during action scenes, where the viewer simply cannot discern what the heck is happening.
Viewers may assume that the character portrayed by James Gandolfini is the CIA Director, but one has to assume this. I confirmed it by checking on line after the movie. Neither does the movie clearly identify the second most important person in the whole operation, the Pakistani aide who pointed out the compound.
A lot of money and technical expertise went in the making of this movie. But it left too many unanswered questions. Director Kathryn Bigelow should have summed up the primary characters and aftermath of the raid with explanatory captions at the end of the movie, but that didn’t happen. What happened to the informant? What happened to Bin Laden’s body? What was the response of the Pakistani government?
I would still give the picture a 7 ½ based on the enormity of the subject matter. But it’s not deserving of an Oscar.