|Kathryn Bigelow director||previously directed The Hurt Locker|
An account on the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the battle on his compound that resulted in his death.
The movie was originally about the unsuccessful decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden. The screenplay was completely re-written after bin Laden was killed.6 More Trivia
When a terrorist in ZERO DARK THIRTY gives a vague and phony description of his boss during an interrogation, Maya remarks that it sounds like he is talking about Gandalf. The terrorist doesn't get the reference.
What do you think of Pakistan so far?
8 More Quotes
It's kinda fucked up.
|Kyle Chandler||Joseph Bradley|
|Joel Edgerton||Patrick - Squadron Team Leader|
|James Gandolfini||C.I.A. Director Leon Panetta|
|See Full Credits|
After the tremendous success of The Hurt Locker, an Iraq War film which came out in summer of 2009 and won the 2010 Academy Award for Best Picture, the writer-director duo behind that film--Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal--announced they would team up for their next project. This project would be focused on a real-life failed mission to capture/kill Osama bin Laden in the Tora Bora Mountains. Boal wrote a script for this project and the movie was well into pre-production when bin Laden was killed in 2011.
Boal and Bigelow made the decision to continue working on a movie focusing on how Osama bin Laden was found, but they abandoned the original script and started over from scratch. Boal, who also considers himself a journalist, conducted many interviews with White House and CIA officials; many later accused the Obama Administration of providing too much and too biased information to him.
Details on Zero Dark Thirty were shrouded in secrecy. Though the cast was announced before shooting, no one knew who the protagonist would be and who would play him/her until about a month before the film's theatrical release.
In 2003, Maya, a youngish CIA official, is observing an interrogation being conducted by Dan, another agent (lower ranking than but not subordinate to Maya), in Pakistan. Over the course of several days, Dan questions and tortures a known Al Quaeda operative named Ammar, who's actions directly resulted in several terrorist attacks, and was involved in the 9/11. Though Dan does do some water-boarding, most of the torture is psychological. The prisoner is left in a sitting position or trapped in a box for days on end; loud music is blaring all the time and he is in a dimly lit warehouse. There are no toilets and his hands are always cuffed so the prisoner must wallow in his own excrement. Ammar's pants and underwear are stripped off and he is paraded in front of Maya (who is attractive) in a dog collar.
The man remains uncooperative, and a bombing he certainly knew was being planned does kill dozens in Yemen. In a conference with Dan and Jessica, another vital member of their team, Maya has an idea that since Dan is half crazy and very confused from his weeks of torment, they can trick him by pretending that in a semi-delusional state he revealed the bombing and they were able to prevent it (the terrorist has no connection to the outside world, and thus has no clue this is a lie). Dan agrees and the two follow through with this, "rewarding" Ammar with a nice meal and a walk outside. Ammar then reveals some important information: Osama bin Laden's current right-hand-man and the only member of his inner circle who was not killed in the US invasion of Afghanistan is "Abu Ahmed," and he probably knows where bin Laden is and how to find him. (Osama bin Laden was the head of Al Quaeda and the man who orchestrated the September 11 attacks). Abu Ahmed is not the real name of bin Laden's closest adviser, but Ammar insists that he doesn't know who he really is (Maya and Dan believe him). Ammar says that Osama bin Laden uses Abu Ahmed to relay messages to the third in command, Al Faraj al-Libbi (who replaced Khalid Sheik Muhammed).
In 2005, a group of Pakistani agents disguised as women in burquas managed to ambush Al Faraj and capture him. Al-Libbi is brought to a top secret "black site" in Poland, where Maya goes to interrogate him. Al Faraj denies that Abu Ahmed exists. Maya knows for a fact that several interrogations have yielded information that Abu Ahmed is a real person, so the fact that Al Faraj denies his existence is in fact proof that the man is very important.
In 2008, Maya and Jessica are having dinner in the Marriott Hotel of Islamabad. Jessica is more laid back and is trying to connect with Maya personally, but Maya is all business. Jessica is married with kids, but Maya does not even have a boyfriend, nor has she had one in years. Suddenly, a bomb goes off, killing 54. Jessica and Maya nearly die as well.
In 2009, Jessica and Maya receive information that a Jordan doctor who has been detained for ties to al Quaeda says he has been treating al Quaeda operatives in the presence of Al Faraj. Jessica offers the doctor million of dollars if he can say where Al Faraj is. The doctor agrees to meet Jessica at Camp Chapman in Afghanistan. However, when he arrives, his car explodes, killing several soldiers and CIA officials, including Jessica.
Maya is very upset by the death of her friend, but she applies this hurt into her work. However, that week she receives worse news: a detainee says that he knew of Abu Ahmed and saw him buried in the early 2000s after he was killed fighting American troops. When shown photographs, the detainee identifies Abu Ahmed as a Kuwaiti man named Sayeed.
A few months later, a young female CIA analyist comes to Maya with critical information. She says that papers obtained during the initial invasion reveal that there were two very similar brothers both named Sayeed. Habib Sayeed was killed in the early 2000s, but his brother Ibrahim, who is the more likely candidate to be very high ranking in Al Quaeda, is still at large. This information has been around for years, but with the glut of intelligence obtained after the initial invasion it was improperly filed. This analyst's commitment and exception work found it now. The analyst says that she was inspired to do this by Maya, who she hero worships. The analyst then asks if she can go for coffee with Maya sometime, but Maya brusquely declines and (rudely) walks off, pre-occupied with her work.
Maya approaches Dan with this information, who has left the Middle East and is working in the Washington DC. Dan finds a man in Kuwait who he believes knows the phone number of Ibrahim Sayeed's mother. Using CIA funds, he purchases the man a Lamborghini in return for this information.
Maya goes to her boss and asks for an expensive mission to find Ibrahim Sayeed using this number. Her boss does not believe that this will lead to bin Laden or anyone important, and declines. Maya bypasses him, and then forces him to support her by threatening to go a Senate committee and testify that she believes the CIA is incompetent.
Using the phone number Dan obtained, the CIA is able to--after expensive missions over the course of several months--track down where Sayeed is--a small town in Pakistan. Tracking him, they see him go to a wealthy, suburban mansion in Pakistan. Satellite photos show, in addition to a few children, two men and three women. Since it is unlikely that the third woman is the daughter or servant of anyone, it is believed that living in the house (but carefully obscuring himself from satellites) is a third man.
Through hours of work and all their connections, Maya's superior set up a conference with CIA director Leon Panetta and present their theory that bin Laden is in a mansion in Pakistan. Maya attends the meeting, identifies herself as "the motherfucker who found this place, sir," and says she is 100% certain Osama lives there.
Offscreen, Panetta goes to Obama and convinces him to approve a raid on the mansion. If troops are caught doing this, they will end up in a Pakistani prison. If bin Laden isn't there, it could be a PR nightmare.
On May 2, Navy Seal Team Six raids the mansion. Despite a helicopter crash that injures the pilot, they are able to find Ibrahim Sayeed and two companions (they all fire at the Seals, and are all killed, as is Sayeed's wife). The third man is taken to a US military base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, where Maya confirms that he is indeed Osama bin Laden.
Maya is let on a military transport plane to go home; she is the only person on it, even though it is huge. As she sits down, she is overcome with emotion and cries.
Zero Dark Thirty was scheduled for a late October release, which would be roughly three weeks before the US presidential election. Many opponents of the Obama Administration expressed concern that the movie (which had not yet screened for critics) would be a much to glowing and one-sided report of President Obama and his role in catching Osama bin Laden, and there would not be enough time for Republican fact-checkers to convince the American public of errors in the movie. Mark Boal, writer of Zero Dark Thirty, adamantly denied that his movie (which had not yet screened) would give a pro-Obama version of events.
Columbia Pictures, which distributes the movie, changed the release date. Many perceived this as a motion to prove that the film was not meant as a political statement for the 2012 elections. Reports suggest, however, that the movie was not yet fully edited as its release date neared and this was the primary reason for post-poning it. Also, the eventual release on December 19 was a prime time to capitalize on awards season buzz.
Several Republican sources said that the Obama Administration (which part of the Democrat party) had let Mark Boal see classified and potentially dangerous information while researching the movie as a hopes of coming off in a better light. Among the accusations was that the video of the top CIA and White House officials on the night of Obama's asssination was shown to Boal, but only after it had been edited to portray Obama as well as possible. US Army Special Forces Major Fernando Lujan said that Obama and his administration's actions regarding Zero Dark Thirty were "in violation of everything we’ve (soldiers and government officials) been taught, and the opposite of what we should be doing, which is being quiet professionals."
Many opponents of torture of detainees for information by the US military (mostly conducted during the initial years in the war on terror, but still happening to this day) believe that Zero Dark Thirty is pro-torture. Long-time Democrats (the party of current US President Barrack Obama but not of former President George W. Bush) and US Senators Dianne Feinstein (head of the Senate Comitee of Intelligence) and Carl Levin (head of the Senate Committee of Armed Services) said that the idea presented in the movie that torture led to the capture of Osama bin Laden was untrue. One of the few Republicans who agreed with Feinstein and Levin was Senator John McCain (the 2008 Republican presidential nominee who lost to Barrack Obama), who said that the movie "sickened him" and that torture not only did not help in the capture of bin Laden, but was unhelpful as it provided false information.
Several government officials had, before the movie's release, attested that torture played a vital part in the capture of Osama bin Laden. Among the officials who said torture helped to fin bin Laden was Democrat Leon Panetta, who was Director of the CIA when bin Laden was found (unlike Obama and Bush, Panetta was featured in the movie, played by James Gandolfini). Another--and one of the most vocal--was Republican Congressman Peter King, who told Fox News that there was no doubt on the matter.
Obama's Administration, which conducted less torture that the Bush Administration had but did not openly say they had stopped, did not come out with a statement on the matter. White House Spokesman Tony Vietor (a Democrat) said “It’s impossible to know whether information obtained by [enhanced interrogation techniques] could have been obtained by other forms of interrogation. I think this is a distraction from the broader picture, which is that this achievement was the result of years of painstaking work by our intelligence community that drew from multiple sources.”
Feinstein, Levin, and McCain wrote a letter to Columbia demanding the studio put a disclaimer before the movie saying that torture did not lead to the capture of bin Laden. Columbia declined.
Though a few critics perceived the film as having a pro-torture stance and gave it unfavorable reviews, Zero Dark Thirty was still one of--if not the--best reviewed pictures of the year. On RottenTomatoes, 93% of the 215 reviews (so 201 of them) were positive; this easily earned the film "Fresh" status. On Metacritic, Zero Dark Thirty earned a 95, which was significantly higher than any other movie that year. This put it in the highest color, Green, and the highest category, "Universal Acclaim." Of the Metacritic reviews, 43 were positive, 2 were mixed, and none were outright negative.
The Academy Awards, or Oscars, are given by a large body of people in the film industry. It is the most widely followed film awards event. At the 85th Annual Academy Awards, Zero Dark Thirty was nominated in 5 categories. They are:
|Award||Recipient of Nomination||Status|
|Best Picture||Mark Boal|
|Lost to Argo|
|Best Original Screenplay||Mark Boal||Lost to Quentin Tarantino; Django Unchained|
|Best Actress in a Leading Role||Jessica Chastain||Lost to Jennifer Lawrence; Silver Linings Playbook|
|Best Editing||Dylan Tichenor|
|Lost to William Goldenberg; Argo|
|Best Sound Editing||Paul N.J. Ottosson||Tied with Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers; Skyfall|
|blog||Pupcast Reviews - All the Oscar Movies||obscurefan|
|review||A supremely crafted docudrama (4 out of 5)||biggest_loser|
|review||A Clinical Hunt for Bin Laden (3 out of 5)||MrMazz|
|blog||Critics' Choice Award Winners!!!!!!||VioletEyedDragon|
|review||A Muse on Torture and Reality (5 out of 5)||FinalDasa|
|review||Most Overrated Film of 2012. (3 out of 5)||MasterPr0phet|
|news||Best Movies of 2012: Mitch Salem||MitchSalem|
|news||2012 Golden Globe Nominations!||staceywi|