Zero Dark Thirty doesn’t hit theaters until December 19th, but the critics have been weighing in since the weekend, when the film finally screened for the entire press corp (a select few had seen it earlier), and for the Hollywood crowd of writers, actors, directors, producers and others who’ll be weighing in on the film as it racks up various nominations during awards season.
Zero Dark Thirty is military speak for “the middle of the night,” an apt title for a film about one woman’s dogged determination to track down and kill Osama Bin Laden. Zero Dark Thirty is based on the true story of the real life CIA Agent (a woman who’s identity the filmmakers have gone to lengths to protect) whose 10 year crusade culminated in the now famous special forces mission that ended Bin Laden’s life.
The film opens in darkness. A black screen. Voices. It’s 9/11 and we are hearing events unfold. It’s one of the most affecting cinematic moments of the last few years. One of the film’s great accomplishments, evident from the first scene, is the way it weaves a story that could have stirred up feelings of revenge but instead brings us into deep contact with the common humanity we share with every one involved in this painful saga, from the agents who engaged in torture in hopes of extracting actionable intelligence; to the torture victims whose guilt in the movie is clear; to the surviving wives and children of Bin Laden, Bin Laden’s courier, and the courier’s brother and sister-in-law, who were at the compound when they were killed.