Breaking down ‘Zero Dark Thirty’



“Zero Dark Thirty” arrived to theaters in December 2012. According to, the movie is placed in the Top 10 of the box-office listing as of February 15-17, 2013. The film is written by Mark Boal and is directed by Kathryn Bigelow. The actors include Jessica Chastain from “The Help,” Jason Clarke from “Lawless” and Joel Edgerton from “The Odd Life of Timothy Green.” “Zero Dark Thirty” has been nominated for five Oscars at the 2013 Academy Awards.

“Zero Dark Thirty” presents a fresh take on the role of women. Women are no longer pretty faces but intelligent, strong leaders. Set in Pakistan two years after September 11, 2001, the film follows a group of CIA agents who are charged of finding and killing Osama bin Laden. The audience follows main character Maya, a young, new CIA agent who experiences her first assignment overseas.

When Maya first arrives in Pakistan she is treated as the underdog of the group. Maya offers up a lot of insight and ideas the group needs in order to find Osama, but is shot down due to her lack of experience. She chooses to go with her instincts despite her treatment from co-workers. As the film progresses, she takes on a leadership role while following her leads, whether helped by colleagues or not. Ultimately, it is Maya who tracks Osama bin Laden’s location.

My prior knowledge of the film came from people’s discussions of the brutal torture scenes, which was exactly why I took an interest in seeing the film. I have never been sensitive to brutality in movies. As far as I was concerned, the more brutal and intense the scenes the better. However, nothing could have prepared me for the emotions conjured up by the opening scene.

“Zero Dark Thirty” started out with a black screen and audio of phone conversations from 9/11. The audio included calls to dispatchers from panicked victims trapped in the World Trade Center, which left my heart in my stomach. My eyes immediately welled up with tears.

The so-called “torture scenes,” such as the interrogations using water boarding, covering the face with a cloth and then pouring water over it, gave off intensity without being too graphic or too gory. Anyone with a weaker stomach would have been able to handle this film. Unfortunately, for those who expected a gross torture scene now and again, one won’t get that from this movie.

At first, I hesitated about seeing the movie after learning that it was nearly three hours. However, “Zero Dark Thirty” is worth every minute. There were plenty of scenes that were intense and action-packed and I never experienced a moment of boredom or dullness. I was most impressed that the film chose a female character as the hero. The archetype of women in entertainment is someone with a great body, emotional and submissive. Maya is portrayed as dedicated, passionate and confident.

The action scenes of this film are different from that of the Die Hard franchise. Instead of guns blazing and expertly choreographed fight scenes, audience members can look forward to a lot of explosions. It also possesses a very personal element that other movies don’t have because September 11 is the inspiration.

“Zero Dark Thirty” should not be viewed as an educational film. The film is meant for entertainment purposes as it is an exaggeration inspired by an actual event. There are some personal lessons to be learned through the character Maya, such as “believe in your instincts.”

This film will appeal to mature audiences, who would enjoy intense situations and American pride. My advice for anyone who remembers Sept. 11 or lived in New York, especially those who lost family members on that tragic day, has served in the military, or has family members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, bring your Kleenex box.

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