January 14, 2013

Movie Review: Zero Dark Thirty

Well, Zero Dark Thirty has arrived in my town, with all the critical fanfare in tow. The film has been one of 2012's most anticipated and now that it's release is going wider, we can all get a peek and see if it is truly worthy of he heaps of praise. Not to mention, we can see if it is worthy of the political outcry over how the events leading to the climax truly went down. It also happens to be director Kathryn Bigelow's first feature since her Oscar win for The Hurt Locker.

I am pretty sure that most of you are familiar with the story being told in Zero Dark Thirty. For the two of you who don't know, it is about the hunt and ultimate killing of Osama Bin Laden. Granted, it did not start that way. The movie was originally conceived to be about the failed hunt, but then that night in May of 2011 happened and the film had to be rewritten to accurately reflect the new twist in the real world drama.

Now, I am not hear to discuss the politics reflected in the film or the political controversy swirling around the depicted events. There are other people much better equipped to address that than I. The extent of my commentary on the matter is to remember this is not a documentary. This is a Hollywood produced film that may hover around the truth and feel real, but it is not reality. It is all right to go along with this as a dramatized overview of reality, just remember we will never know the exact details. With that said, I will go out on a limb and say they nailed he important part of the ending.

Zero Dark Thirty is a good movie, of that there is no doubt. I just don't. Think it is a great movie. It is the sort of movie that banks a lot on its real world connections, perhaps a bit too much. If you take away the real world connection this movie has and make it a more pure work of fiction you are left with a merely adequate procedural thriller. The real world chase of Bin Laden offers a lot of intangible investment for the audience and it offers something of a narrative shortcut allowing the movie to have a rougher cut.

We follow the pursuit of Bin Laden through vignettes from 2003 through the raid in 2011, broken up with titles like "Tradecraft," "Human Error," and "The Saudi Group." We watch everything through the eyes of CIA operative Maya (Jessica Chastain). There are scenes of torture, shootouts, arguments with high level CIA brass, all leading to the ultimate raid on that infamous compound in Pakistan.

I do not think this is a bad movie, but it is not a great one. Jessica Chastain delivered a fine performance with some great moments of intensity. It is not exactly a full character, but she brings a human quality to it that helps you overlook the shortcomings in her completeness as a character. It is similar to the story, it is broken up, scene, scene, scene, bang we got him, it sort of requires us to bring our decade of living with this to the theater with us.

The movie is shot well, with that requisite sun burnt look of the Middle East. Kathryn Bigelow brings energy to it and keeps the proceedings moving, which helps considering how long the movie is.

Overall, Zero Dark Thirty is a movie that s well worth seeing and I certainly understand, if not completely agree with, the praise the film has received. See it, enjoy it.


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