I'm sorry to hear that you didn't like it QUENTIN, considering your interest in American politics I thought you would like the reporting/journalistic storytelling of the film. The film has definitely been hyped up a lot though.
Here's my 4 1/2 star review from my blog
: (rustysyringe, if you read this you'll notice I got a bit of inspiration from your critique. Hope you don't mind
I’m sure Ben Affleck, director of 2012′s Argo, has seen Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty by now. He must have. I’m willing to bet a substantial amount of money that the guy walked out of the screening room and thought, for the most part, “what a brilliantly suspenseful, masterfully directed and wonderfully acted retelling of one my country’s most important recent historical moments”. He’s a great guy with lots of respect for his peers so I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what he thought, for the most part. But, a small, tiny, part of him must have also thought “Fucking SHIT man! Seriously?! The same year?!”
Much to Mr. Affleck’s possible chagrin, what Bigelow and her writer, co-producer and partner-in-report Mark Boal have done, is take a damn similar concept to Argo’s and make a more introspective and – thanks to one woman – more powerfully acted film, stealing a bit of thunder in the process. American history? Check. Classified CIA operation? Check. Contextualized narrative that relates to current world events? Check. Seen through the eyes of a single, ambiguous, CIA operative? Check. As more check marks align you’d be forgiven if you thought that there was some backroom talk about releasing such similar films in the same year. Not to mention Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, a chamber piece on American history that’s sits like a grandfather in the dusty corner, rocking in his chair and telling great stories. You’d be forgiven, but you’d be wrong. The two films are similar, but they are both excellent for different reasons. Jump the cut to see why Zero Dark Thirty is one of the year’s best.
Zero Dark Thirty follows Maya (Jessica Chastain), as she grows more and more obsessed with the one and only mission she’s been assigned to since she was pulled out of high school and recruited for the CIA; catch Osama Bin-Laden. The figures around her, including chief interrogator Dan (Jason Clarke), Security Chief in Pakistan (Kyle Chandler), fellow CIA colleague (Jennifer Ehle), among others, come in and out of her life in one way or another but it is with Maya with whom we stick. This is what elevates the film from being a mere recounting of facts (bent or otherwise). Most people are going to know it or talk about it as “that movie about killing Bin Laden right?” and some conspiracy lovers (nuts?) will throw in a “propaganda” and a “bullshit” in there too, but if you see the film for yourself you’ll see that the events depicted provide a springboard for more intriguing questions, which hit home regardless of where you’re from, or what your thoughts are on American foreign policy. How do events (and, more specifically, careers) in our lives define who we are? How does strength of character, personality and instinct persevere in near-impossible situations? And a bonus one for the ladies and the smart guys: How does a woman handle herself in a man’s world in a film that’s not corny?
The film makes no qualms about being, first and foremost, a report of the crucial events which led to the final killing; right down to the Navy SEALs, whom the film dedicates its last 20 or so minutes to, and in a seamless tonal shift presents a supremely edited and tightly directed night-vision sequence of the take down (“Osama!”). If you’re expecting in-depth character studies, token comic relief or some kind of hidden critique of how government workers watch porn in their spare time, look elsewhere. I’d suggest the excellent TV show Homeland (no porn though, sorry) or, well, Ben Affleck’s Argo if you want to see a more fleshed out, emotionally involving or entertaining version of American politics in action. Zero Dark is a much more straightforward and bleak line, which grounds it more to reality. This make i Having said that, it’s very conscious of the fact that it’s not a documentary, which is where Maya comes in.
First of all, Chastain’s performance can’t be praised enough and the girl deserves every award that can possibly be given to her (more than a couple of ladies give Oscar-caliber performances in 2012; she’s one of them). There is an evolution of the character, from field noob in Pakistan who can barely look at the tactics employed to extract information (more on that below) to someone who has the Security Chief by the balls and doesn’t let go until she gets what she wants. Chastain hits every single note like Muhammad Ali used to punch opponents in the ring; dancing with dialogue like a butterfly and stinging with expressions and gestures like a bee. She is helped along by a solid supporting cast; Clarke, Ehle, Chandler, Mark Strong and Joel Edgerton all standing out and complimenting Boal’s script like the pros that they are. Clarke and Ehle especially stand out and give us two of the most likable characters. The great thing about this film is that you’re not sure if Maya herself is likable, which is ultimately a very human depiction of a CIA operative. She is shrouded in mystery because we don’t know about her past, we don’t get time to “meet” her in any conventional cinematic way. We pick up characteristics about her and by the end of the film, my favorite ending to any film this year with the exception of Holy Motors, we are told: figure it out. Make your own conclusion. Who is this woman and where is she going.
Does it deserve all the critical praise it’s received? No, the film isn’t a masterpiece. It still leaves you a tab bit cold because there is a sense of something missing (my finger is still trying to point out what that is) and it’s been hurt by some internet hyperbole. Has the Academy royally fucked up by failing to nominate Bigelow? Big time. Another notch in their long list of fuck-ups, which grows bigger than the other list each year. Bigelow’s camera is wonderfully in-your-face at every twist and turn, documenting the subtleties of the performances and unraveling the story in small enough doses to keep you glued from start to end (even when you know what the outcome is going to be). Boal’s script is hardwired with explosive dialogue and suspense. These points, along with the great naturalistic acting, made it easier for the critics to shower the film with praise but what truly stands out is the beautifully balanced juxtaposition of a pivotal American moment in recent history and the human element that isn’t afraid to ask questions, stick a mirror in front of our faces and trust us enough to find the answers on our own. I don’t doubt that Mr. Affleck would agree.
A NOTE ON THE DEPICTION OF TORTURE - REVISED
Many-a tweet has been twatted about the advocacy of the use of torture. The first portion of the film shows Dan doing his thing and interrogating Ammar (Reda Kateb) and I won't give my opinion here lest I spoil anything but let's just say, it sparked up a crazy amount of controversy. The New York Review of Books treats the film like the public service announcement that it's not and concludes that it has "enlarged the acceptability" of the pro-torture side of the fence. Many have come to the film's defense, including Sony Co-Chairman Amy Pascal. I'll give my two cents: it is public knowledge that torture methods are employed in order to extract information from the enemy during war-time. I was in a bubble that got popped about 10 minutes ago, because I thought the hoopla was about the existence of torture hence the note's revision. The controversy has more to do with some high-ranking officials not paying much attention to the film and thinking that vital information was obtained because of the torture. That's incorrect. The information is obtained despite of the torture, and actually has more to do with the development of Maya's character than anything else. We shouldn't blame people in politics for missing that though, I don't think they get much time to go to the movies. Bigelow and Boal depicted the ugly truth that torture was employed and most of it was too excessive and ultimately useless because psychological advantage prevailed in the end. They have my utmost respect for that.