"How do you like Pakistan so far?"
"It's kinda fucked up."
The combination of Oscar-winning director Katherine Bigelow at the helm, Mark Boal behind the screenplay, and Jessica Chastain in front of the camera, is the closest thing you'll get to a guarantee of a profoundly intense and rewarding experience at the theater.
Chastain plays the CIA operative who, like a terrier with a rat, will not let go of pursuing the decade-long trail of clues to find and kill Osama bin Laden. The controversy over the torture in this movie is well known. I'm squeamish about such things, but the film's emotional distance in its portrayal allowed me to view without flinching. (Perhaps that is what should be controversial—that waterboarding and pain infliction can be offered with such cold dispassion. Another day at the office.)
The 25-minute climactic scene of the Navy SEALS' raid is only a few minutes shy of the actual time the real-life assault required. You will leave the theater with the sense that you personally experienced every foot of hard earth, every floorboard, and every stair of the Osama compound under your own feet.
Zero Dark Thirty is yet another 2-1/2+ hour Best Picture nominee. Either dehydrate properly beforehand or wear your Stadium Pal.