Awards Profile: Zero Dark Thirty

Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer: Mark Boal

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Chris Pratt, Kyle Chandler, Edgar Ramirez, Jennifer Ehle

Synopsis: The Navy Seal Team 6 track down wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden. (Provided by

Why It Could Succeed:
Some of the most intriguing questions surrounding the film is the actual content it will entail.  How graphic in nature will Bigelow push it in the actual scene including the demise of one of the most notorious terrorists in global history?  On the American soil, the film can and should be a box office success.  The subject matter will likely give audiences enough gumption and curiosity to seek the film out into at least an opening weekend juggernaut.  It’s an American friendly picture, or at least on the surface. As long as respect, dignity, and quality remains intact, “Zero Dark Thirty” can be one of the best cinematic endeavors of 2012.

Why It Could Fail:
There’s a few bricks stacked against the film already. It’s Bigelow’s big follow up to her Oscar winner for Best Picture. There are haters out there who thought “The Hurt Locker” wasn’t the best of the year and/or willing to call it a fluke. Unfortunately, the film HAS to be better than “The Hurt Locker” for audiences and voters to warm up to it in a big way. It’s the bias that goes with being a talented woman director. Surely there are a group of people out there willing to yell, “too soon!” It’s a sensitive subject matter, about a sensitive topic, circling indirectly around 9/11. Films about the war in Iraq, 9/11, or anything post-millennium that has shaped our current situation in this country are going to have its dissident viewers. Are there enough to pull it down?

Film Speculation:
Kathryn Bigelow has delivered some terrific work over the span of her career.  Her most famous recognition will always coincide with her Oscar winning film, “The Hurt Locker,” which she won the Academy Award for Best Director.  Her newest film, now (tentatively) titled “Zero Dark Thirty,” has her teaming back up with Oscar winner Mark Boal to tell the incredible story of the Navy Team that hunted down and killed Osama Bin Laden around this time last year.

The history behind the project has been enigmatic as well as any details regarding the production, writing, and research for it.  Originally not planned to have anything to do with the killing of Bin Laden, the script was re-written to include the events that took place in early 2011 with the killing Bin Laden.  The title of the film, although not confirmed yet, has had the working titles “Kill Bin Laden” and “Hunt” over the course of its existence.  It seems “Zero Dark Thirty” may be the final title in the running.

The shooting of the film has been in progress in Punjab, India near New Delhi, the Indian capital where Bin Laden was found and killed.  Some parts of the Indian City, Changigarh, were tuned into Lahore and Abbottabad scenes, both are Pakistani cities.  There have already been Hindu protests against Pakistani portrayal on Indian land.  In an election year, President Barack Obama was been ridiculed and accused of jeopardizing the national security of the United States.  Bigelow, Boal, and the rest of the crew were given top-level access to the what most consider, the most classified mission in American history.  Is this something that could hurt Obama on the campaign trail?  Can it have a prolonged effect on Bigelow’s Oscar campaign if the film succeeds on financial and critical level?  Perhaps.  Maybe it doesn’t matter at all.

The Oscar potential will rest on the soldiers of Bigelow’s direction and Boal’s writing.  The expectations of the acting isn’t anywhere near the anticipation of the final product.  The cast that was put together is quite impressive nonetheless.

While none of the characters have been named or revealed to the public, we can only begin to speculate who or what they will encompass.  Fresh off her Oscar nomination, Jessica Chastain is on board, likely a spouse of one of the seals.  If we compare to the women roles that were seen in “The Hurt Locker,” Evangeline Lilly wasn’t given much scenery to chew on and was completely overshadowed by lead performers Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Geraghty.  Same goes for co-star Jennifer Ehle is also starring.

If we’re looking at potential for citations from the Academy, Edgar Ramirez gave a powerhouse turn in the television movie, “Carlos.”  He could be someone to observe as a potential standout along with Joel Edgerton, who gave one of the most underrated performances of last year in Gavin O’Connor’s “Warrior.”  Expect a possible ensemble campaign with all performers being pushed supporting.  That’s the view from 10,000 feet.

Mark Strong has been an up and comer with turns in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and will be seen this year in Disney’s “John Carter” and Eran Creevy’s “Welcome to the Punch” with James McAvoy.  A big year ahead?  It’s reasonable to consider.  Chris Pratt is also a fresh face after being seen in Bennett Miller’s “Moneyball” last year.  Prospects could point to a breakthrough performer mention of the year that translates to Oscar.  The talent is there.

Any of the performers are feasible but the technical aspects could and should be on point.  Sound and Cinematography are great tools to get an audience on your film’s side.

The film opens on December 21, 2012 and is being distributed by Columbia Pictures.

Oscar Potential:
Best Motion Picture
Best Director – Kathryn Bigelow
Best Supporting Actor – Mark Strong, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, Edgar Ramirez
Best Supporting Actress – Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Ehle
Best Original Screenplay – Mark Boal
Best Cinematography
Best Film Editing
Best Sound Mixing
Best Sound Editing
Best Makeup

What do you think?


Written by Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times,, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.


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