Iffy for 16+
Intelligent, uncompromising drama is violent and complex.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Zero Dark Thirty is a combination war movie, thriller, and docudrama about the intense, years-long hunt for Osama bin Laden following the 9/11 attacks, from the filmmakers behind The Hurt Locker. Perhaps the movie's most controversial element is its depiction of "waterboarding" and torturing prisoners for information. The movie shows this process as simultaneously effective and repellent. Overall, violence is strong -- not just in the torture sequences, but also in various other gun/shooting sequences, with dead bodies and lots of blood. But because the violence encourages interpretation and isn't just gratuitous, older teens should be able to handle it within the movie's context as an intelligent, complex story that's sure to inspire passionate discussion. Language is strong, with uses of "f--k" and "s--t," as well as sexual innuendo and some partial, nonsexual nudity. Characters are often seen smoking cigarettes or drinking in a background way.
- Families can talk about Zero Dark Thirty's violence. What's the impact of the torture scenes? How are they different from the climactic invasion sequence? From the opening depiction of 9/11? How does the movie challenge viewers to think about all these different forms of violence?
- What keeps Maya doing this job -- hunting for little clues that may lead to Osama bin Laden -- for so many years? Is she a role model? Is she worth rooting for?
- How can Zero Dark Thirty be labeled? How would you describe it to your friends? Is a movie that's difficult to label better than one that's easy to label?
The good stuff
Messages: The movie's messages are complicated (all the better to inspire in-depth discussions among grown-ups and older teens). At particular issue is some of the violence -- i.e. the use of torture. The movie approaches these difficult topics thoughtfully, allowing viewers to interpret them for themselves.
Role models: The main character is a tough, smart, persistent woman who spends years trying to achieve a nearly impossible goal and eventually accomplishes it. Yet that goal, and the methods she employs to achieve it, definitely dilute her heroism. But she's an enormously strong character with many shades of gray and well worth thinking about.
What to watch for
Violence: Several scenes of torture and severe interrogation techniques, including "waterboarding" and humiliation (a man's pants are stripped off). Also one or two intense battle sequences with guns, shooting, dead bodies, and blood. Bombs are set off, with injuries and casualties. Frequent tension/peril. The main female character is involved in -- and sometimes the victim of -- several violent situations.
Sex: Some male prisoners are stripped of their clothes, but nothing more than naked behinds are shown. One brief scene takes place in a nightclub with sexy dancing girls (not naked). A good deal of spoken sexual innuendo throughout.
Language: Very strong and quite frequent. Words include "f--k" and "motherf---er," "s--t," "a--hole," "ass," "bitch," "damn," "hell," and "d--k," plus "goddamn" and "oh my God."
Consumerism: Coke and Budweiser brands are shown and/or mentioned.
Drinking, drugs and smoking: Characters both major and minor are often shown smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol (beer, wine, etc.) in a background way.
Fan Reviews provided by
Well done by Djjdo1
Very good. It is slow moving. Then of course, a gripping finish. What makes this movie well worth the trip is the subject matter. We're all watching our history unfold. Very powerful as a result. Jessica does very well. It's not a life changer best picture, because its primarily a one note, steady pace. But the power is in the story itself and how much we waited for this moment to actually happen, how this impacted our lives directly. There are some Hollywood-isms I found distracting. I mean, what female CIA agent in the desert interagating lethal criminals in a bunker torture room gets up each morning and spends an hour CURLING her hair? I mean, really? Ok, we get it. You want us to think they are sexy. Just tell the story. Stop infusing Hollywood into it. There are some "facts" that don't align with the Navy Seal's book (IE, only 2 helicopters instead of 4, and who was actually killed inside the house) but all in all it's generally similar in the details. Overall. Very intense!
Zero Dark Thirty is great! by greg_movies1950
Jessica Chastain was excellent! She brought the character Maya to life in an outstanding performance. As in many Hollywood productions, the military members were presented less than complimentary at times. But that's Hollywood. Entertaining and gripping but not for the kiddies.
Awesome by ataylor2
I know its a two and a half hour movie but time flies by. Great acting, the story is very engaging, and the action scenes are awesome!
intense and gripping by jshahin
The politics behind the scenes is really interesting and how it was really the will of just one person, more than anything else, that even kept us pursuing Bin Laden was fascinating.
Zero Dark Thirty by pj2smith
Good movie!!! Great outline and historical context, but it's kinda slow and drags on a bit. The Hurt Locker by the same director was a PERFECT movie and is my all time favorite movie, so then again I had very high hopes and Jeremy Renner is the man!! Wouldn't say it's a must see but definitely check it out if you have the time and money :)
Well done. As real as could've been told. by maverick2030
Zero Dark Thirty closely aligns with the Mark Owen perspective told in No Easy Day - even down to nuances. Obviously no one knows exactly how things unfolded, other than first-hand accounts, but judging from Owen's account and Zero Dark Thirty, it seems legit. Written more to the tune almost of a documentary, it's not some hyped up action thriller. SEALS are portrayed accurately, and the movie never abandons truth at the expense of a cheap thrill. Very well written, very well done.
Proud American!!! by FilmNut23
The most accurate account we will ever see!!! I was blown away by just how intense and realistic the film was. Watching the end through the night vision goggles was intense and real, I could truly feel the intensity that Obama must have felt watching it in real life.
I dont know why some people are going off about the torture scenes, thats real life! War cannot be candy coated in a movie like this, compared to what they did to us its a slap on the wrist.
The casting was pure perfection! No one tried to steal the screen, everyone was there to help tell the story.
Im reading alot of reviews saying it was boring, yea at some points the talking slows the movie but if you hold on it leads to one hell of an ending!
The hardest thing for me was in the first few minutes they played 911 calls from 9/11, im not sure if they are the real ones but the ones you can make out are chilling.
Its a must see film though. Loved it
Patriotism at its Best by NatalieFanofMovies
This is an important movie for all American's to see. It was well done and captured the daily sacrifices our service men and women make on our behalf daily. Kudos to the hard working men and women at the Central Intelligence Agency!
Zero Dark Thirty by Susan1955
I loved this movie. I got I exactly what I wanted - the story from the CIA's point of view. All the acting was wonderful. Jessica Chastain is a talented young woman and I look forward to seeing her grow. I was worried that the torture scenes might have been too much for me but they weren't. I thought what I watched on Scandal on network television Thursday night was worse than what they showed in Zero Dark Thirty. So for those who are squeamish like me, the torture scenes weren't unbearable. I thought this movie was terrific. I read other reviews and saw some people thought it was a little long. I didn't mind it. It was fact-based and did good job of telling the story.
History by BAConnolly
This movie rated right up there with Argo in that it is based on historical facts. I'm glad I saw this movie and think it was probably pretty close to the actual logistics on what truly happened. I don't think we really need exact facts for that matter. God bless our hard working CIA and military for what they do for our country. Glad I live here in the good ole USA. It is violent and bloody, yet that was expected.