• R, 2 hr. 37 min.
  • Drama
  • Directed By:    Kathryn Bigelow
  • In Theaters:    Jan 11, 2013 Wide
  • On DVD:    Mar 19, 2013
  • Columbia Pictures

Zero Dark Thirty Reviews

David Thomson
The New Republic
Top Critic
June 13, 2013

If you like World War II films, you'll enjoy this.

Tom Charity
CNN.com
Top Critic
February 5, 2013

What's striking is the absence of triumphalism -- Bigelow doesn't shy away from showing the victims shot down in cold blood in the compound -- and we come away with the overwhelming sense that this has been a grim, dark episode in our history.

Cath Clarke
Time Out
Top Critic
January 15, 2013

This is an instant classic.

Full Review | Original Score: 5/5
Peter Howell
Toronto Star
Top Critic
January 11, 2013

Chastain makes Maya as vivid as a bloodshot eye. Her porcelain skin, delicate features and feminine attire belie the steel within.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Liam Lacey
Globe and Mail
Top Critic
January 11, 2013

No doubt Zero Dark Thirty serves a function by airing America's dirty laundry about detainee and torture programs, but in its wake, there's a crying need for a compassionate Coming Home to counter its brutal Deer Hunter.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Tom Long
Detroit News
Top Critic
January 11, 2013

While "Zero Dark Thirty" may offer political and moral arguing points aplenty, as well as vicarious thrills,as a film it's simply too much of a passable thing.

Full Review | Original Score: C+
Ann Hornaday
Washington Post
Top Critic
January 10, 2013

From the very first scenes of Zero Dark Thirty, director Kathryn Bigelow demonstrates why she is such a formidable filmmaker, as adept with human emotion as with visceral, pulse-quickening action.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Calvin Wilson
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic
January 10, 2013

Unlike too many films these days, "Zero Dark Thirty" dares to embrace complexity. And that makes it not just state-of-the-art entertainment, but a great film.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Colin Covert
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic
January 10, 2013

A timely and important reminder of the agonizing human price of zealotry.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Lou Lumenick
New York Post
Top Critic
January 8, 2013

Not only is Zero Dark Thirty one of the year's best movies, it's an inspiring one to share with your daughters. That is, if they're old enough to deal with explicit torture scenes.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Joe Neumaier
New York Daily News
Top Critic
January 8, 2013

What the film says about getting information from terrorism suspects in an era of high-tech surveillance depends on your point of view. What is unquestionable is how powerful its full scope is.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
Christy Lemire
Associated Press
Top Critic
January 8, 2013

Bigelow's extensive staging of the May 1, 2011, raid is a prime example of virtuoso action filmmaking.

Rene Rodriguez
Miami Herald
Top Critic
January 4, 2013

Even more than The Hurt Locker, which sometimes relied on traditional film techniques to build suspense, Zero Dark Thirty resists manipulating the viewer or building movie-movie excitement.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Mick LaSalle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic
January 3, 2013

One of the most innovative and best made films of the past year. Every now and then, even Dick Cheney gets to like a great movie.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Moira MacDonald
Seattle Times
Top Critic
January 3, 2013

[It] isn't easy viewing - but just try to look away.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Cary Darling
Fort Worth Star-Telegram/DFW.com
Top Critic
January 3, 2013

[It's]a harrowing adventure behind the headlines that is at once a riveting procedural and, at the same time, a bracing political statement on the moral ambiguities of our war on terror.

Full Review | Original Score: 5/5
Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic
January 3, 2013

Its stance is extremely tricky. It's not a documentary. It's not a load of revenge nonsense. It's not "24." I'm still arguing with myself over parts of it.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Bill Goodykoontz
Arizona Republic
Top Critic
January 3, 2013

"Zero Dark Thirty" is a great movie, an astonishing achievement on nearly every level.

Full Review | Original Score: 5/5
Chris Vognar
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic
January 3, 2013

Swift, smart, relentless, Zero Dark Thirty compresses a decade of high-stakes procedural into 157 minutes of pure momentum.

Full Review | Original Score: A
Steven Rea
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic
January 3, 2013

As a hugely compressed account of the Osama bin Laden manhunt, as a compelling but troubling look at "black ops" tradecraft, and as a riveting portrait of a fiercely determined woman working in a male-dominated sphere, the film is a resounding success.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Ty Burr
Boston Globe
Top Critic
January 3, 2013

It's a movie made with the same coolly fanatical attention to craft the lead character displays in her work.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
J. R. Jones
Chicago Reader
Top Critic
January 3, 2013

At the very least Bigelow has widened her reach past the white-knuckle thrills of The Hurt Locker and into the darkest currents of American military might -- at the risk of being swept away.

Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic
January 2, 2013

A slam-bang action picture.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Joe Morgenstern
Wall Street Journal
Top Critic
December 20, 2012

What it does in the course of telling a seminal story of our time is what contemporary films so rarely do, serve as brilliant provocation.

Christopher Orr
The Atlantic
Top Critic
December 19, 2012

A powerful, morally complicated work on an urgent subject. It is a film that deserves-that almost demands-to be seen and argued over.

Rex Reed
New York Observer
Top Critic
December 19, 2012

Movies must move, and this one just lies there like a stack of paper from a classified government filing cabinet.

Stephen Whitty
Newark Star-Ledger
Top Critic
December 19, 2012

[Chastain's performance has] a lot of colors, and angles, and is guaranteed to be remembered come awards time. Maya's a real character, all right.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic
December 18, 2012

Kathryn Bigelow proves herself once again to be a master of heightened realism and narrative drive in this retelling of the decade-long search for Osama bin Laden.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
Bob Mondello
NPR
Top Critic
December 18, 2012

This is not a triumphant story in [the] telling, but it is one uncommonly freighted with the weight of history.

Claudia Puig
USA Today
Top Critic
December 18, 2012

There's an emotional detachment to the film that undercuts its potency. Zero Dark Thirty is more technically proficient than emotionally involving.

Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
Alonso Duralde
TheWrap
Top Critic
December 18, 2012

A movie that's going to part of the national discussion, both politically and artistically, and deservedly so. Whether you love it, hate it, or have mixed feelings, it's not to be ignored.

Scott Foundas
Village Voice
Top Critic
December 18, 2012

Even the smallest touches in Zero Dark Thirty feel authentic enough that we scarcely question them ...

James Berardinelli
ReelViews
Top Critic
December 18, 2012

A compelling contemporary thriller with the added benefit of also being an engrossing character study.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Scott Tobias
AV Club
Top Critic
December 18, 2012

It's a film about revenge and its immense costs, different from a common vigilante story because of the target, not the arc.

Full Review | Original Score: A
Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
Top Critic
December 18, 2012

The knockout punch of the movie season is being delivered by Zero Dark Thirty. Chastain is a marvel, and Bigelow and Boal top their Oscar-winning work in The Hurt Locker.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Rafer Guzman
Newsday
Top Critic
December 18, 2012

It mixes checkable facts with dramatic license, but "Zero Dark Thirty" has no overweening political agenda. Instead, it unfolds with the cool detachment of a documentary even in its most tense and gripping scenes.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Owen Gleiberman
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic
December 17, 2012

Once in a long while, a fresh-from-the-headlines movie fuses journalism, procedural high drama, and the oxygenated atmosphere of a thriller into a new version of history written with lightning... [Zero Dark Thirty] is that kind of movie.

Full Review | Original Score: A
Glenn Kenny
MSN Movies
Top Critic
December 17, 2012

As disturbing as it often is to watch, it's so rife with sheer cinematic material that it's likely to reward multiple viewings.

Full Review | Original Score: 5/5
Manohla Dargis
New York Times
Top Critic
December 17, 2012

The most important American fiction movie about Sept. 11, a landmark that would be more impressive if there were more such films to choose from.

Full Review | Original Score: 5/5
David Denby
New Yorker
Top Critic
December 17, 2012

It combines ruthlessness and humanity in a manner that is paradoxical and disconcerting yet satisfying as art.

Peter Rainer
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic
December 14, 2012

By showing scenes of torture without taking any kind of moral (as opposed to tactical) stand on what we are seeing, Bigelow has made an amoral movie -- which is, I would argue, an unconscionable approach to this material.

Full Review | Original Score: C+
Richard Roeper
Richard Roeper.com
Top Critic
December 14, 2012

'Zero Dark Thirty' is the best movie of 2012.

Full Review | Original Score: 5/5
Dana Stevens
Slate
Top Critic
December 14, 2012

A vital, disturbing, and necessary film ...

Andrew O'Hehir
Salon.com
Top Critic
December 13, 2012

[Its] moral ambiguity will drive some viewers nuts, but in my view it is also the quality that makes "Zero Dark Thirty" something close to a masterpiece.

Joshua Rothkopf
Time Out New York
Top Critic
December 11, 2012

The details are gripping, presented with respect for an audience's intelligence.

Full Review | Original Score: 5/5
Stephanie Zacharek
Film.com
Top Critic
December 11, 2012

Bigelow and her screenwriter Mark Boal [operate] from the idea that doubt is dynamic, while moral certainty is just another kind of stasis.

David Edelstein
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic
December 10, 2012

In its narrative arc, it is barely distinct from a boneheaded right-wing revenge picture, but the vibe is cool, brisk, grown-up, packed with impressively real-sounding intel jargon. And the hero is no gun-toting macho man.

Peter Debruge
Variety
Top Critic
November 26, 2012

The ultra-professional result may be easier to respect than enjoy, but there's no denying its power.

Richard Corliss
TIME Magazine
Top Critic
November 26, 2012

This is movie journalism that snaps and stings, that purifies a decade's clamor and clutter into narrative clarity, with a salutary kick.

Todd McCarthy
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic
November 26, 2012

The story of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden builds relentlessly to a powerful end result.