Friday, January 11

REVIEW: Zero Dark Thirty

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
2012 Historical Drama
2 hours 37 minutes
From Columbia Pictures

Jessica Chastain
Jason Clarke
Joel Edgerton
Kyle Chandler
Mark Strong
Jennifer Ehle
Harold Perrineau

I think the less you know about the real events the more you will like this film.  That is not to say there isn't plenty to like here even if you do know a great deal about the actual events of killing Osama bin Laden.  I was riveted to the hour-long 60 Minutes segment featuring the ex-Navy Seal and his first-person account of the raid and killing.  This film is not better or more informative than that segment.

That is not to say I didn't like this film... I did.  I find it more than fascinating that a woman directed a macho film such as this and that another woman is the CIA operative who is really the brains behind the discovery of bin Laden.  And I am delighted by this which is furthered in the excellence of their accomplishments.

The raid itself is at the very end of the film.  The remainder of this long story concerns this operative, Jessica Chastain, and her belief that the trail to bin Laden is right before their faces.  She thinks all the bad guys are out in the open; she just has to find out where they all are.  She also believes that bin Laden is not holed up in some cave but living in a larger city.  Much of what she has to do is convince a lot of men that she knows what she's talking about.

We all know that our government is upset over the torture at the beginning of the film.  Whether that or some other elements of the story actually happened we will leave for others to decide.  The lion's share of what I saw seemed real to me based on what I remember of the 60 Minutes episode and various readings.

I was uncomfortable watching the torture scenes and so was Chastain's character.  She is not convinced that macho male ways are how we should proceed.  She is more into her own intelligence, intuition and tenacity.  It is a fun part of the story watching her maneuver her way through the minefield of  testy testosterone.

I think the first third of the film is not done so well.  In my case I had a hard time bonding, shall we say, with the people, events and what I was expected to understand.  It had a decided documentary feel that seemed to be cleaned up as the film went on.  Maybe it's just me...

And for some (yes, those familiar with the story), then the ending may not be the exciting climax one may hope for.  For them there may be more interest in the middle of the film where we learn more about the CIA, those surrounding the president and watching how Chastain accomplishes her mission.

We never learn much about Chastain's character and while I certainly fault the writing for that, I admire how the actress pulled it all off.  When I think of her blonde outsider in The Help and compare it with this film, it shows what a versatility she has.  She can show fragility and strength with equal ease in her choice of roles.  Here we see a decidedly strong side.  She has a most interesting face.  I am sure I can read her thoughts on it.  I think she completely deserves her Golden Globe and Oscar nominations.

This is not the best film of the year.  I know because I have already seen that one but for some, this would be a totally satisfying immersion in the exciting story of real-life events.

Review of Gangster Squad


  1. I liked the movie a great deal. I think the issue of use of torture to find Bin Laden was over-sensationalized. I think the movie was more about Maya - the woman who was able to connect the dots that were in front of everyone, and who quietly stuck to her guns. I thought it was well done; and if newscasters are going to review anything it will always be negative. That's how they get their ratings - in my humble opinion.

  2. Jessica did a great job as she has in all her roles...we MUST be related!