This is the ninth of ten Oscar Countdown posts from Zuzana Urbanek, where she reviews the Best Picture nominees, and gives her own predictions on who will win.

Zero Dark Thirty: Even I Would Get Up Early for This Film

Runtime: 157 minutes
Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Director Kathryn Bigelow follows in the footsteps of her brilliant 2010 best picture winner, The Hurt Locker, with another hard-hitting contender: Zero Dark Thirty. This film has been at the center of some high-level controversy, so I am more than thrilled to see it make the top movie nominee list. Why? Because it is a skillfully written, acted, and produced film that deserves the highest accolades, regardless of whether any politicians think the story should or should not be told.

Zero Dark Thirty is a dramatized account of the protracted hunt for Osama bin Laden following 9/11. It takes liberties with what might or might not have happened during the year that the US military and intelligence were tasked with finding the terrorist mastermind, for who knows what really happened? It’s classified information. Then again, one of the controversies about this film was that the crew had some kind of unauthorized access to classified data. Hmm, interesting.

Another controversy associated with it is that it places undue or even false focus on torture as a means that the United States used to gather intelligence for finding its target. It’s true that the interrogation techniques shown in the film are not fun to watch. But I actually found the killings of suspected terrorists’ families more shocking than the steps taken with known conspirators to extract information. The characters in the film explain the reasoning behind using some extreme measures much better than I can, and I’ll let the film speak for itself.

In the end, this first-rate film left me with a sense of the heavy responsibility borne by those who protect our country, and the anguish felt at every misstep or loss or failure. It did an incredible job of showing at once the enormity of international terrorism and the very personal nature of guarding against it for those tasked with that goal. And, like The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty does an amazing job of making no overt judgments about the rights and wrongs of the events it portrays. This powerful, revealing, thoughtful film is a must-see.


This review was written by Zuzana Urbanek, author of A Book Full of Movies You May Not Have Seen. Visit Z’s Blog at