New Releases: Zero Dark Thirty – (2012)

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New Releases: Zero Dark Thirty - (2012) Genre: Drama, History, Thriller, Release Date: 2013-03-19 Duration: 157 ...

New Releases: Zero Dark Thirty – (2012)

New Releases: Zero Dark Thirty - (2012)
Genre: Drama, History, Thriller,
Release Date: 2013-03-19
Duration: 157 Min

  • Kathryn Bigelow


Two Years After Sept. 11, 2001 CIA BLACK SITE:

CIA Operative, Dan (Jason Clarke) walks into a dingy room where a terrorist financier, Ammar (Reda Kateb), is being held captive. Several other CIA members are present, but they are wearing balaclavas to shield their identities. Dan makes the rules clear to Ammar: If Ammar doesn’t do what Dan asks him to do, such as to look at him when he’s being addressed, Dan says he will hurt Ammar. Also, if Ammar steps off the mat he’s on, or lies about anything, Dan will hurt him for that too. Dan has Ammar put in additional restraints and beckons to one of the masked individuals to follow him outside. He orders his men not to talk to Ammar.

Outside, the masked individual removes the mask, revealing that she is a young CIA agent named Maya (Jessica Chastain). Dan apologizes for how intense the interrogation is, realizing that Maya has only recently come from Washington and is new to field operations. Dan explains that their process takes a while because Ammar needs to know how helpless he is. He offers to get her a coffee but she tells him that they should go back in. He offers to return her balaclava but she declines, noting that he’s not covering his face. She asks if Ammar is ever getting out. “Never” says Dan.

The pair go back in and Dan tells Ammar that he needs to understand his situation. He informs Ammar that he knows all about him, and has had plenty of opportunities to kill him, but let him live so they could have this talk. Ammar screams that Dan is nothing more than a garbage man for his corporation, but Dan retorts that Ammar is a terrorist who helped finance the September 11th attack in the USA, and was caught with explosives in his house when they came for him. Dan also makes it clear he doesn’t want to talk about Sept. 11, but instead wants to know about the “Saudi Group” that Ammar is associated with. Ammar refuses to talk, so Dan’s men set up mats and Dan forces him to the ground. Dan asks Maya to hands him a bucket of water and a towel so that Dan can water board Ammar. He asks Ammar to give him an email address, and demands to know when was the last time Ammar saw Bin Laden. At the end of the session, without receiving any additional information, Dan makes it clear to Ammar that in the end everyone breaks.

Maya sits in a waiting room. Dan brings their boss, station chief Joseph Bradley (Kyle Chandler), to meet her. She mentions that what she saw was a bit fucked up and Bradley is surprised, having assumed that she volunteered for this position. Bradley buzzes her into a secure wing and Dan asks Joseph if he thinks Maya is ready, but Bradley just points out that the CIA needs to break in the next generation.

Maya settles at her desk and waits until she is brought into a small conference room where fellow CIA agents Jessica (Jennifer Ehle), Jack (Harold Perrineau), Thomas (Jeremy Strong), and J.J. (J.J. Kandel) are working on the latest intelligence reports. Dan points out that Ammar is withholding what he knows about the Saudi Group, while Jennifer gives updates on the latest leads. Maya points out that some of their assumptions are based on pre-9/11 behavior, rendered moot by the invasion of Afghanistan.

Morning prayers wake Maya from an uneasy sleep on her couch. She and Dan check in on Ammar, who is still suspended by rope and deprived of sleep courtesy of heavy metal music. Dan pulls up a chair and seats Ammar in it, providing him with a bottle of fruit juice and some food. He again asks Ammar about the Saudi Group and Ammar insists that he only handles money, that he doesn’t know who the guys that he finances are. Dan kicks the chair out from under Ammar and has Ammar pulled up by the ropes tied to his wrists, then rips down his pants, exposing him to Maya, and asking Ammar if he had shit himself.

Dan and the other agents leave, putting Maya alone in the room with Ammar. Ammar tells Maya that Dan is an animal and begs her for help. She tells him that he can help himself by being truthful. Dan returns with a dog collar and forces it around Ammar’s neck, then acting as though he’s Dan’s dog and needs to be walked. He drags him over to a box, smaller than a coffin, threatening to put Ammar in there if Ammar doesn’t tell him about the next planned attack. Ammar names several days of the week, but won’t specify a not a location, so Dan and the other men force him into the box and leave him there.

May 29, 2004.

A group of al Qaida terrorists shoot civilians in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, targeting non-Muslims and Americans. Jessica, Dan, and Maya watch the footage in the aftermath. Jessica tells Dan that the massacre is not on him, but Dan insists that since Ammar is their prisoner, the deaths are on him, and Maya. Jessica points out that there are still other plots in motion that they can wring out of Ammar, including a planned attack in the London-Heathrow area. Maya realizes that since Ammar has been in complete isolation, they can lie about the outcome of the Khobar attack and claim that it was thwarted as a result of what he had told them in his sleep-deprived state.

Ammar is brought out of his confinement and informed that his intel was good. Dan asks what Ammar did after the invasion. Ammar said the choice was to fight or run, and he wanted to kill Americans. He continues to talk about the members of the al Qaida cell, but in vague terms, until Dan makes it clear that he will put Ammar back in the box if Ammar doesn’t start naming names. Ammar spills all the details he can, including that his uncle once worked for Bin Laden and that Ammar had seen him in Karachi, with a letter from the shah, which said to keep working on the jihad and keep it renewed for a hundred years. Finally Ammar gives them a name: Abu Ahmed.


Maya watches a computer monitor and studies old interrogation tapes, looking at each of the suspects and studying their stories. Apparently, Osama Bin Laden uses a complex network of carriers to relay messages to his supporters. She takes a break to make some food and Jessica walks in to ask how the search for the needle in the haystack is going. Jessica suggests that at the end of the day, everyone can be swayed with money, an idea that Maya questions since it doesn’t fit the motivations of a jihadist. But Jessica retorts that the weaker members would be swayed with money.

Putting on a dark colored wig to conceal her red hair, Maya is escorted to a CIA Black Site in Poland. Hakim (Fares Fares), a fellow agent and interpreter, brings her to their prisoner. They ask him a few questions and he claims that he had contact with a man known only as Fahraj. Maya is suspicious that the suspect is simply making it up until the prisoner names all of Fahraj’s children. He confirms that there was a network in place to pass messages on. Maya takes this information back to Bradley and gives him a report. Bradley points out that her hunt for Abu Ahmed has been fruitless because she doesn’t know his real name or where to find him. She retorts that the fact that everyone has heard of Abu Ahmed means that he is important. He tells her to let him know when there’s actionable intelligence so that they can order a strike.

London, England. July 7, 2005.

A double decker bus explodes. News footage of this latest AQ attack plays out on Bradley’s computer monitor and in Maya’s kitchen. On Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, Dan feeds a pet monkey from his ice cream cone when he is informed that his detainee is ready. Maya is escorted into an ISI Detention Center in Pakistan. Her detainee is cooperative and tells her everything she wants to know about Abu Ahmed, a most trusted courier who cannot be found because he is one of the “disappeared ones.”

A man has an object strapped to his leg and is told, God willing, they will not have to use it. We follow the man as he walks through a complex where children are playing. His walk is observed by Dan. Individuals dressed like Muslim woman in all black follow him as he goes to meet with Fahraj. The Muslim women are revealed to be soldiers who grab Fahraj and swarm around him, rifles pointed at his chest. Bradley presents Maya with paperwork and tells her that she has a one on one with Fahraj.

Dan escorts Fahraj to his cage a private cell with barbed wire around the sides. Dan says that he’s bad news for men like Fahraj and that Dan isn’t going to help him, he’s going to break him. Asked if he’s hungry, Fahraj has a tube shoved down his throat and blended food is forced down his throat. He is a difficult prisoner, so Maya asks Dan if he will take a crack at Fahraj but he says no, he’s done this long enough. He’s getting sent back to go to Washington and do something normal. He asks her to come back with him and be his number 2 but she says she won’t find Abu Ahmed from DC. Dan warns her that politics are changing and that she needs to make sure she’s not the last one holding the dog collar when the investigators arrive. And since everyone knows her in Pakistan she’s going to need to start watching her back.

September 20, 2008, Marriott Hotel, Islamabad, Pakistan.

Jessica waits at a table and waves to Maya as she arrives, still attached to her phone. Maya apologizes for being late because of the check points. Jessica reminds Maya that they are socializing and pours her a glass of wine. Maya makes it clear that Abu Ahmed’s mystique confirms his importance. Suddenly, a bomb goes off outside the Marriott destroying most of the interior. Maya and Jessica struggle to find an exit, passing numerous staff and diners who have either been killed or wounded by the bomb. A truck outside had been stopped at a check point. The driver then detonated the truck’s payload of explosives.


Tribal Territories, Pakistan: A meeting of Bin Laden’s inner circle occurs while someone records it. Jessica walks up to Maya, ecstatic and proclaiming that the Jords have a mole. She shows Maya the video of the meeting and explains that a Jordanian doctor has made it into the inner circle. Bradley doesn’t buy it but the Jords claimed that money and patriotic duty would be enough to sway him from Bin Laden and the jihad. Maya points out that the guy is full of shit and they just have to meet him face to face. She helps Jessica convince Bradley to approve the operation.

Jessica tries to get the doctor to come to Islamabad, but the doctor refuses on the grounds that traveling out of the Muslim world would make him appear to be a flight risk. An interview of Obama talking about America’s moral stature plays in the background as Jessica tells Maya that the doctor would be willing to meet with Jessica in the Tribal territories. Maya points out that as a white woman Jessica would definitely be kidnapped. They brainstorm with a fellow agent who suggests Camp Chapman in Afghanistan as a safe area of compromise.

On the phone with Maya, Jessica decorates a cake for the doctor. Maya laughs and points out that Muslims don’t celebrate with cake. Jessica scolds her for being so literal and invites Maya out. Maya declines – it is Jessica’s lead and she deserves to run the show.

Jessica meets with a CIA agent, John, for drinks and they toast to the doctor their first big break since 9/11. She’s cross-checked all the information that they’ve been provided with and it checks out. The money that the doctor would stand to receive – million, would buys a new life. John posits that the doctor is exaggerating his access to Bin Laden but Jessica points out that in 6 months to a year, the doctor could be treating Bin Laden. With the money on the table, the doctor will flip – or they’ll kill him.

December 30, 2009.

Jessica and the other interrogators wait out outside at the base and everyone is on edge. Jessica is excited about the meeting, but the doctor is late. Just when he looks like a no-show, a car appears on the horizon and gets stopped at a check point. Jessica insists that he be ushered through the check point without being searched, per the agreement they had made beforehand. The officer in charge of security reluctantly agrees and the car is driven in and an old man gets out. When the soldiers order him to take his hand out of his pockets, he detonates a bomb, killing everyone in the vicinity including Jessica and John.

Maya hears the news about the bombing and is distraught. Several co-workers come and talk to her, giving her updates including news that a detainee has confirmed Abu Ahmed as dead. Maya is on the edge of a breakdown. That night, Jack approaches her to console her about Jessica’s death and asks what she’s going to do now. She tells Jack that she’s going to smoke out everyone involved in the operation and kill Bin Laden.

George (Mark Strong) arrives to brief Maya and her co-workers in the aftermath of the bombing, angrily pointing out that they are losing the fight against their enemy. He yells that they haven’t done shit, that killing four of the 20 members of Bin Laden’s inner circle is a terrible success rate. He demands they do their jobs and bring him people to kill.

A young female agent who admires Maya, approaches her and hands her a file on a man called Ibrahim Sayeed, whose extended family was involved in terrorist activities. The agent tells Maya that it was a lead that had been on the backburner for a while, as a result of all the white noise. Maya goes over the Abu Ahmed files one more time and realizes that Sayeed and Abu Ahmed have many similar facial features, due to their family relations. Maya calls Dan in Washington and points out that Abu Ahmed might not be dead, since the three eldest brothers looked alike, that the picture they’ve been associating with him is wrong. Abu Ahmed is still in play. She asks him to move heaven and earth and get the Sayeed family’s phone number.

Dan goes to talk to “The Wolf” (Fredric Lehne), a shadowy high-ranking official in the U.S. government, and requests a couple hundred thousand dollars to break open Maya’s lead. The Wolf tells Dan that there is a lot of oversight going on and that the investigators will not stop until they have a body. Dan makes a deal with the Wolf. If the Wolf backs him financially, he will return the favor by defending the methods used to an oversight committee.

Kuwait City, Kuwait.

Dan meets with one of his highly placed contacts and buys him a Lamborghini in exchange for the Sayeed family’s phone number. Maya meets with Larry (Edgar Ramirez) from Ground Branch and has him start hunting for Abu Ahmed. Larry and Hakim go for a drive in the city and begin to trace the identity of the Sayeed brother who is likely Abu Ahmed.

May 1, 2010. Times Square.

In the aftermath of an attempted car bombing in NYC, Maya tries to talk to Bradley about the ground surveillance on the caller, which Bradley says they don’t have. Bradley wants to dismiss her lead because it is not relevant. He says he doesn’t give a shit about Bin Laden, he only cares about stopping the next attack. Their goal is to protect the homeland, but Bradley points out that Maya’s lead is only a fucking facilitator. Maya threatens Bradley, telling him to give her the team she needs or send her back to DC and face a hearing before congress to be the first station chief to be called before congress for subverting the effort to find and kill Bin Laden. Bradley tells her she’s fucking crazy but gives the order.

Jack approaches Maya in a bar and gives her a cell phone, telling her the suspect bought a new phone and they cloned a copy, so that whenever his phone rings this cloned phone will ring as well. Hakim, Larry, and a third agent follow the signal from the phone in Pakistan. After briefly being stopped, and threatened by locals who recognize them as not belonging there, they drive away and are able to find the owner of the cell phone. They ID him and photograph him and his vehicle.

A crowd of protesters outside the CIA facility in Pakistan protest against Bradley. Bradley had been named in a lawsuit by the family of a victim of a drone strike by the ISI. Bradley is recalled to the United States, removing him from his position. Maya tells him that the ISI fucked him, but he says nothing.

Larry and Hakim follow the suspect’s vehicle to a compound in Islamabad. As Maya leaves her house, a pair of


Jessica Chastain

Joel Edgerton

Chris Pratt

Mark Strong


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2 responses to “New Releases: Zero Dark Thirty – (2012)”

  1. Jordan M. Benesh "K&B Hype the Movies" says:
    245 of 298 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    “I’m not your friend. I’m not gonna help you. I’m going to break you. Any questions?”, January 6, 2013
    Jordan M. Benesh “K&B Hype the Movies” (Tempe, AZ) –

    ZERO DARK THIRTY REVIEW, by Jordan B. — 5 / 5

    “I’m not your friend. I’m not gonna help you. I’m going to break you. Any questions?”

    The ten-year manhunt for the world’s most wanted terrorist leader is a story we all followed and one whose ending will likely go down in history as one of the twenty-first century’s most triumphant moments, both for America and for many others across the globe. With ZERO DARK THIRTY, director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriting partner Mark Boal have taken those ten years and condensed them into 157 very deliberate, riveting, and powerful minutes. Much like the manhunt itself, ZERO DARK THIRTY is a powerhouse, a thrilling and winding tale that requires patience but arrives with an ending worth waiting for.

    September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. ZERO DARK THIRTY begins with a bone-chilling opening sequence that brings us back to that dark day. Bigelow shows us nothing but black, and layers tens or perhaps hundreds of audio recordings of phone calls from hijacked-airplane passengers and those trapped in burning towers to their respective loved ones and to emergency operators. It is a stark, stripped sequence that is ultimately extremely affecting.

    But so, too, is the next extended sequence, one that takes place in 2003 and shows a terrorist at an unnamed detention facility relentlessly tortured by a member of the CIA, Dan (Jason Clarke), and his colleagues. Wanted is information that will hopefully lead to the capture of Osama bin Laden, but given is nothing. And so the torture continues.

    Many have condemned Bigelow and Boal for these extended torture sequences, with some critics and viewers claiming that it glorifies torture and intelligence officials stating that it incorrectly implies that these “enhanced interrogation techniques,”, such as water-boarding and sleep deprivation, garnered key information that led to bin Laden’s capture.

    I will briefly take an aside and add my two cents with this: 1) I don’t agree that the film takes the stance that torture is “good” or permissible, and 2) I don’t agree that the film implies that the torture of CIA detainees directly led to the capture of Osama bin Laden. But I digress.

    The rest of the film follows newcomer CIA agent Maya (Jessica Chastain) and her colleagues as they sift through years of intelligence data, with more coming in than they can handle and most of it a paper trail leading to dead ends. That is, until Maya follows a lead that, with her undying confidence and ruthless conviction, garners a name to follow and eventually a location to scope out: the Abbottabad, Pakistan compound that housed Osama bin Laden and his all-important courier.

    ZERO DARK THIRTY closes with a thrilling raid that will surely keep you on the edge of your seat, or bobbing your knee up and down, or biting your nails, or whatever your nervous tick may be. Bigelow creates tension that is palpable, even though we already know the outcome.

    Much like David Fincher’s 2007 crime-thriller ZODIAC, ZERO DARK THIRTY is a cold, calculated procedural of whose beginning and ending we are fully aware but whose events in-between we might not be. ZERO DARK THIRTY sheds light on these in-between events via first-hand accounts of the manhunt for bin Laden, dramatized to ensure full effect on-screen. Though obviously condensed, the film is certainly compelling, and unfolds swiftly and with ease.

    The success of ZERO DARK THIRTY as a motion picture rests on the shoulders of two very capable women: Academy Award winning director Kathryn Bigelow and Academy Award nominated star Jessica Chastain.

    Bigelow’s execution here is nothing short of masterful. The film is 157 minutes long but plays like a 100-minute thriller due to Bigelow’s ability to pack as much punch in each moment as humanly possible. And yet, with all this information to present, she never forgets that there is a very real human element behind all that intelligence.

    Enter Chastain as Maya, a tough-as-nails woman who takes on the ball-breaking task of finding bin Laden with fierce tenacity and exciting verve. Chastain, in a word, is exceptional. She plays the role close to the chest, wearing Maya’s emotions on her sleeve and crafting a performance that never feels forced. It simply feels real, as though Chastain is her true-life CIA counterpart. And there is no better acting than acting that feels real.

    ZERO DARK THIRTY is perhaps 2012′s most vital film, not because of the politics people try to pull from it but because of the story it tells, or rather, the story Bigelow and Boal allow to tell itself. This is a satisfying procedural at its finest, a gripping, compelling, dramatic thriller that begs to be seen and discussed. It’s a story our nation remembers, and one we will never forget.

  2. Mike the Geology Teacher says:
    113 of 136 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    An honest telling of a harsh story, January 12, 2013
    Mike the Geology Teacher

    “I want to make something absolutely clear. If you thought there was some working group coming to the rescue well I want you to know that you’re wrong. This is it. There is nobody else hidden away on some other floor. There is just us and we are failing.” -CIA Officer

    There’s a reason Zero Dark Thirty was nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, the movie is just that good. It may not be a movie for all audiences. If you go see this movie expecting to see a movie that looks like a James Bond or Jason Bourne action extravaganza, you might find yourself sorely disappointed. Likewise it’s not a Tom Clancy techno thriller. Zero Dark Thirty is an honest drama showing the CIA’s decade long struggle to find the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

    The main character of the movie is CIA analyst named Maya (played by Jessica Chastain); no last name is given. Maya enters the hunt for Osama Bin Laden at an undisclosed CIA facility where captured terrorists are being held and questioned. She arrives to witness the “enhanced” interrogation of Ammar, a courier for Saudi terrorists. Through Ammar’s interrogation and many others, Maya begins to piece together information on Osama’s network, learning of a senior courier named Abu Ahmed who had direct access to Bin Laden. Finding Abu Ahmed in Pakistan is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But look Maya does, every spare moment, for a decade. Even though she’s an analyst, not a field agent, the mere presence of an American woman in Pakistan puts her in danger. She survives an assassination attempt by Islamist gunmen. Some of her friends aren’t so lucky.

    As I said earlier, don’t expect this movie to be like most spy stories where enemy agents give themselves away and intricate conspiracies unravel before the hero’s brilliance. Maya and her colleagues must sift through thousands of hours of interrogations and millions of “facts” to find just the ones that are true and relevant. It’s no easy task. Just getting Abu Ahmed’s real name takes years of painstaking research. Meanwhile, more attacks take place inside Pakistan, Afghanistan and Europe. Actual news footage of those events serves to show the passage of years. Once Abu Ahmed’s name becomes known, there’s still the matter of finding him in areas of Pakistan where American’s are likely to be shot on sight. Kathryn Bigelow does a masterful job of showing the long hours and hard work behind the search. After 2 hours watching the un-glamorized process of intelligence gathering, the actual SEAL Team 6 takedown of Bin Laden could have been just an afterthought. But Bigelow’s documentary-esque style gives the commando sequences an added authority.

    “I’m going to put you in that box, let me be honest, that box sucks, you don’t want to go in that box.”

    There’s been some hubbub claiming that the movie is pro torture. I’d just like to point out that director Kathryn Bigelow is hardly a Joel Surnow (24) or John Milius (Red Dawn, Dirty Harry). She a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute and Columbia University who personally studied under liberal icons Susan Sontag and Milos Forman (Hair, People vs. Larry Flint, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). Much of her work before the Hurt Locker was decidedly feminist. She hardly fits the profile of someone out to promote torture. But she had done thousands of hours of research for a film project on the Battle of Tora Bora. When word of Bin Laden’s death became public, she shelved her completed screenplay for that movie and started on Zero Dark Thirty. The hours she spent researching Bin Laden, the CIA, Pakistan and Afghanistan for the unmade movie situated her ideally for telling the story of the CIA’s hunt for Bin Laden. Add to that the unprecedented access to information she got from the Obama Administration. So much of the information comes from the “highest sources.” It’s also confirmed by much of the written record including exhaustive work done by journalist Mark Bowden (The Finish: the Killing of Osama Bin Laden).

    Because of the controversy, I doubt that Zero Dark Thirty will sweep the Oscars. It may not be an easy movie for some people to watch. But it is a riveting, true-to-life, account of a piece of American history that deserves to be told. And director Kathryn Bigelow did a masterful job telling it.

Economic Flash News

Interest Rates Rise 'Signal Economy Growing'

A rise in interest rates is a sign the UK economy is emerging from a crisis period and is growing, George Osborne has argued. The Chancellor sought to strike an upbeat note on the move which is set to see some people's mortgage payments go up, after Bank of England Governor Mark Carney gave a strong hint they may increase before the General Election next May. In his first Mansion House speech since becoming governor, Mr Carney warned "gradual and limited" increases would be needed as the economy recovers. With the economy recovering faster than anticipated, analysts predict the interest rate hike could even come as early as this year.