The Grade Book: “Zero Dark Thirty”

Zero Dark Thirty

Plot: Follows the hunt for, and eventual killing of, Osama bin Laden. 

Director: Kathryn Bigelow.

Writer: Mark Boal.

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, Jennifer Ehle, and Kyle Chandler.

Genres: Drama, Thriller, History.

Running Time: 2 hours and 37 minutes.

MPAA Rating: R.




SUMMARY OF THOUGHTS: Zero Dark Thirty is one of the most important American films to come around in the past few years. Mark Boal’s screenplay is brilliant, Kathryn Bigelow’s direction is spot-on, and Jessica Chastain’s lead performance is unforgettable. The movie also features a riveting climax that will be talked about for years to come (much like the rest of the film itself).



  • Gabriel Alcantara (Big Gabe):

Grade: A-

Not the most exciting film out there but it’s incredibly riveting and well-crafted. Jessica Chastain gives an impressive performance and carries this film like a champ. I can’t be too sure on how accurately the film portrays the events in question but as an entertainment piece, it captured my full attention.

  • Christian Becker:

Grade: A-

An excellent drama about the hunt for bin Laden and how far one women will go to make sure the job is done. Even with the realistic tone, it feels overly-long and drawn out at times. However, the raid scene, along with a powerhouse performance from Jessica Chastain, makes it a worthwhile ride in the end.

  • Ryan Fecskovics:

Grade: A+

Kathryn Bigelow directs one of the boldest films of 2012. A strong and stylistic direction moves the film to new heights. Jessica Chastain’s performance is immensely effortless; her Oscar nomination is well deserved. I argue that the film should have received more nominations. That being said, it is a tough watch for the weary kind. But I am thoroughly impressed with Miss Bigelow’s vision. Also, Mark Boal wrote a killer screenplay.

  • Chad Gleason (MovieManCHAD):


Grade: A

Whether it’s completely true or not, this is one of the best films of 2012.

  • Daniel Hollis:

Grade: A+

Bigelow manages to make a mass achievement in filmmaking by chronicling an extraordinary story while also channeling some raw human heart in the center, creating a sympathetic approach to the troops that go to war in a grounded way. This film manages to balance all of its elements finely and builds to a fantastic and superbly tense conclusion.

  • James Michael Holtz (WeWatchedAMovie):

Grade: A+

Painfully realistic and jarring at every turn. Is it full of action? No, but at times just the dialogue between these great actors and actresses is so intense it’s hard to tell the difference. I haven’t cared that much about a movie in a long time.

  • Steven Hunt:

Grade: A

An amazingly-made drama about the hunt for bin Laden. Jessica Chastain gives an Oscar-worthy performance in this movie and anchors it overall. Every other performance is great. The movie was extremely interesting throughout and the final 30 minutes or so are filled with tension. Highly recommended to everyone.

  • Anthony Hurtado:

Grade: A+

Not only is this film being called the film to define a decade but I would consider it to be the film to define the year of 2012. This film may seem too talkative in the beginning, but it finishes off extremely strong — with the amazing climax of the raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound. What a fantastic film.

  • Nick Iacobucci:

Grade: A

Kathryn Bigelow takes the audience and plunges them directly in the middle of this manhunt. The film has pitch perfect direction at every turn, and a script to back up the director’s pace and vision. Jessica Chaistain holds every moment of this film together, even if we’re led to believe that nobody outside of her knows where to find this guy.

  • John Maffeo:

Grade: A

Zero Dark Thirty is an intense thriller that surprisingly executes subtlety brilliantly. The film is ultimately a buildup to the obvious climax but all the elements utilized are handled with extreme care. There is just as much exhilarating dialogue sequences as there are character studies that have full arcs. Overall, it’s a great American film that celebrates patriotism yet doesn’t fall into obnoxiousness. It’s a must-see.

  • Scott Menzel:

Grade: B+

After watching this film and thinking about it for days upon days after it, I have to admit that Zero Dark Thirty could be one of the best films about real life events that has ever been made. Bigelow directs an amazing film which respects the events instead of turning it into propaganda and Jessica Chastain is just terrific in the lead role and deserves all the awards she is nominated for. While this isn’t a film that is a pleasant watch, it is definitely a film that is intense, interesting, and showcases an important part of history that will never be forgotten.

  • Kevin Morrison:

Grade: A-

This a great film that will get people talking. Jessica Chastain does a wonderful job and her character has the best scenes I have seen in any movie this year. You are captivated by her. Bigelow once again shows why she is a great director and creates a film with no clear right or wrong answer. The only problem is it is a bit too long and very intense at times.

  • Jake Peffer:

Grade: B+

It’s overly-long and slow at times but Kathryn Bigelow has put together a really good movie. At times it’s very tense and when things get a little too talky it won’t be long before the tension rises back up. Jessica Chastain gives a great performance along with a stellar cast.

  • Alex Perez:

Grade: A-

I’m sorry, I had minor flaws with it – mainly that it was just a tad slow and that Kathryn Bigelow used just a little too much shaky cam. That being said, Zero Dark Thirty is still an engaging, intense, well-crafted, and expertly directed thriller. And Jessica Chastain MUST win the Best Actress Oscar for her performance here!

  • Austin Putnam:

Grade: A

In short it’s one of the best films of 2013. Just….excellent. Give Jessica Chastain the Oscar already.

  • Daniel Rester:

Grade: A

Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal’s film-making chronicle of the hunt and eventual killing of Osama bin Laden makes for the most important American film of 2012. Boal creates a seemingly realistic idea of how things actually happened through his excellent journalistic screenplay, and Bigelow gives it a blazing treatment from beginning to end; they avoid shoving their political views all over the movie, and instead focus on the behind-the-desks heroes that got the job done. Jessica Chastain proves that she is the new star in town, too, owning the screen every second she is on it. This isn’t a film that is gung-ho and highly patriotic in its treatment, but rather a thought-provoking film that will leave you with chills and arguing with others and yourself. The movie is a tad slow at times, but I found it to be near-perfect (very close to an A+ for me). And the climax will leave you breathless.

  • Christian Ruvalcaba:

Grade: A-

A very well crafted film put together by Miss Bigelow, who is able to capture the heart and soul of the subtle hunt for bin Laden. Jessica Chastain steals the show with spunk and a persistent attitude. The film flows with great scenes of intense dialogue and sequences. However, the film does feel a tad long and some might find a few parts to drag on. But in the end, the film prevails with strong emotions and a satisfying feel of closure.

  • Delon Villanueva:

Grade: A

One of the most important films of this generation. It’s easily a worthy follow-up to Kathryn Bigelow’s Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker. A fascinating look at the ten year hunt for Osama bin Laden that will have people talking for months. Even though the ending is set in stone, the movie still has you on the edge of your seat until the very end. It also has a great ensemble cast, headlined by Jessica Chastain, a surefire Best Actress frontrunner. It’s intense, well-paced, controversial, and one of the best films of the year.

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