Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Racial Justice | KPBS Voter Guide

Review: 'Zero Dark Thirty'

January 4, 2013 2:13 p.m.

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews "Zero Dark Thirty"

Related Story: Rants and Raves: 'Zero Dark Thirty'


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

ANCHOR INTRO: The film "Zero Dark Thirty" opens today. It has been racking up award nominations but it's also getting criticized for its depiction of torture. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando considers a film's responsibility to the truth.

ZERO 1 (ba)

"Zero Dark Thirty" starts with the statement that it's "based on first hand accounts of actual events." As the screen fades to black we hear real calls from 9/11 and then it cuts to a detainee being tortured.

CLIP Everybody breaks, it's biology.

In less than five minutes the film mixes fact and fiction with little concern for how the audience sorts it out. That's because it's a Hollywood movie more concerned with getting your adrenaline pumping than with making a political statement or a documentary about torture. So while it bothers me that a complex topic like torture is reduced to a narrative device, I cannot fault Kathryn Bigelow's skills as a no-nonsense director weaving a tense procedural thriller about a female protagonist driven by a primal need for revenge.

CLIP I want to kill Bin Laden.

I've always liked Bigelow. She refuses to conform to Hollywood conventions of what a woman director should be and she gives us a heroine cut from the same cloth. Jessica Chastain's Maya may look soft and delicate but she -- like director Bigelow -- is steel-willed with no time for sentiment or politics. The end result is a riveting tale about the little people who work long and hard to make big breaks happen.

Beth Accomando, KPBS News.