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Friday, January 11, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty - Review (2012)

Every once in awhile when writing a review I find myself in this situation.  A film, that I enjoyed while watching defies a conventional rating and/or review.  This is the case with this film - a technically sound film, often intense film that lets us in on a previously undisclosed secret world of tracking down the most wanted man in the world (and not in a good way.)  

Maya (Jessica Chastain) is a CIA agent that has trailed Bin Ladin since the day she joined the CIA is an engaging character.  She is a driven woman with some spunk who will not let anything get in her way as she pushes forward on the hunt to capture bin Ladin.  Her story is the thread that holds the film together, the human element that makes this more than just a military procedural.  

Anyone that lived through those terrible events back in September of 2001 hoping that one day justice would be served, will want to see great effort put into making that wish come true.  This film delivers answers (accurate or not) that we yearned for.  I believe it fills a hole in our being left there by the uncontrollable, unthinkable tragedy.  In a way, this film completes us, relieving us of some of the emotional baggage we have lugged around for over a decade.  The last 30 minutes of the film lead to the obvious climax is the killing of Bin Laden, something we all know is coming (even I will reveal that “spoiler.”)  No more questions.  No more wondering.  

But, as a cinema piece it is much less successful.  The reason we become so involved with the film is due to our vested in the subject matter, not because of the characters on screen.  Maya serves, more or less, as a guide throughout this tale.  Her story and that of those around her does not provide cinematic weight needed to elevate the film much beyond the glorified reenactment that it is.  The emotional response to the film falls almost completely on our connection to the real events, not to the characters/story put on screen.  Although there are some displays of good and even great acting (Chastain being the great) the actors are never given much to do.  I am not saying the film is devoid of human emotion, there are a couple moments of humanity that salvage the film.

Although Bigelow crafts some intense scenes, they never reach the same level as the hold-your-breath moments of her Oscar winning “The Hurt Locker.”  There was never a moment during the film that I was restless or bored, it simply lacked the emotional connectivity, preventing it from grabbing hold of me and resonating that way I had hoped.  Who these people are and what happens after all this meant little to me, they were just cogs in the wheel of the master plan.   

The whole experience of seeing this film was like going to see a magician.  Instead of watching him perform an amazing trick, he shows you how he did an older trick you have seen before.  Sure, it is interesting to learn the secrets behind the magic, but it will never be as exhilarating as watching a new trick.  After the thrill of discovery is gone there is not much more to digest.  As I left the theater I had nothing left to think about, nothing left to discuss.  That was minutes after the film, how will the film hold up upon on a second viewing or, better yet, years down the line?  Should I rate the film based only on my actual time viewing?  Should I even ask myself these questions?

My rating for the film 7.5 out of 10.
(a margin of error of .5 depending on how I am feeling that minute.)

The following are a couple of thoughts I had while writing this review that in no way affected my rating, but are worth noting and can be discussed in the comments section.

The film has become controversial because of the graphic displays of torture.  It the film pro-torture, is it anti-torture?   Who cares???  I think that is a very subjective question.  I personally don’t like torture.  Do I condone the torturing of those that are looking to kill countless others to protect the innocent?  The answer to that is something I struggle to come up with a definitive answer for.  If this film accurately portrays what happened during the event preceding the death of Bin Ladin, then shouldn’t they be shown for what they are.  If you going so far as to make this film, then don’t sugar coat it.  

Which brings me to my next internal conflict.  I have to question the fact they made this film at all.  If anything, it seems kind of irresponsible.  Sure Americans are curious what exactly happened.   We are always curious.  That does not mean we deserve all the answer to our questions.  Look what happened when we wanted more answers to the mysteries of the Star Wars universe... we got the prequels, we learned about midi chlorians... we were introduced to Jar Jar.  Having your questions answered does not always end well.  Not only does this film reveal a lot of the techniques used by our government, it also can be used as a tool to breed hatred for our country.

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