ZERO DARK THIRTY


UPDATE: I’ve had a bit more time to think about ZERO DARK THIRTY and one of the things I really appreciated what it’s ability to address moral issues without beating the audience over the head with it. Hollywood has a tendency to get on a soapbox with these issues, but not here. It’s a fairly “sterile” portrayal of things like torture and allows the audience’s own moral compass to decide what is right and what is wrong (and how wrong it may be). — Alan Yudman

WOW! Just WOW! Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal have done it again. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, ZERO DARK THIRTY is the story of the hunt for and killing of Usama Bin Laden (they call him “UBL” in the film, so I figure I’d go with their spelling). Bigelow won an Oscar for THE HURT LOCKER, the story of a bomb tech in Iraq. That was a much more personal film. It was a study of Jeremy Renner’s character and how his job shaped his life. This is about war and intelligence gathering. It’s also about obsessive revenge as brought to life by Jessica Chastain. The movie punches you in the emotional gut right away, opening with a black screen and police & fire radio traffic, voicemails and 911 calls from 9/11. Then Chastain arrives Pakistan to begin the hunt. The scenes of torture are disturbing. You know they were necessary, but it still is hard to watch and in the beginning Chastain’s Maya has as much trouble watching as the audience does. But one terror attack after another happens and Chastain and her CIA team run into one brick wall after another. The innocent bodies pile up and they are no closer to finding Bin Laden. A point brought home during a visit by a CIA supervisor brilliantly played by Mark Strong. He screams “bring me some targets to kill”. Once they figure out that a courier can lead them to the Al Qaeda leader, that’s when the action picks up. Then finally, months after discovering the compound in Abbotabad the Navy Seals are sent in to get their man. We all know what happened and generally how it happened. But that does nothing to lessen the suspense and emotion leading up to the moment when Bin Laden is killed. ZERO DARK THIRTY may be faulted for glossing over some of the decision making. But this isn’t about how the Obama administration decided to get their man. It’s about the manhunt. It’s about one woman’s obsession with a target and revenge. It’s edge of your seat entertainment. It’s emotional for any American who lived through 9/11 and May 1, 2011. Bigelow is a master of this type of movie and may very well take home her second Best Director Oscar. Chastain should get a best actress nomination without question. If she doesn’t win it would be a crime. ZERO DARK THIRTY is simply fantastic and may be the best movie of the year. — Alan Yudman

Torture. Reading files. Surveillance. All of these tactics and more were used to find Bin Laden and we see them in action in Zero Dark Thirty. This story is so compelling there is no need to focus on a main character…but they do and that is the movie’s biggest problem. Jessica Chastain is sorely miscast..no presence despite the fact every other character seems in awe of her toughness. Her very Hollywood-esque lines took me out of several scenes…her dropping the word “mother——” during an intelligence meeting for no apparent reason other than to show the audience how badass she supposedly is…telling one member of the Seal Team “kill him for me”…yeah, they killed Bin Laden for her. Stupid lines a better actress MAY have sold take away from the real drama: the hunt and the raid that killed Osama. The manhunt and the mission are riveting and are the heart of the movie. Even the ending felt off: instead of focusing on the aftermath of the raid, we watch the lead character sit and stare into space for five minutes…with tears. Sorry, wrong movie! The worst torture scenes were the moments Chastain opened her mouth and bombarded a very intelligent movie with eye rolling cliches. — Stormy Curry

2 thoughts on “ZERO DARK THIRTY

  1. There are several best picture contenders. For example: The Master, Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, Moonrise Kingdom, The Avengers are just a few that I've seen that were excellent. I have not yet seen Django Unchained, which I have high hopes for.

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