Movie Review: 'Zero Dark Thirty': Bin Laden's final cut


Movie Review: 'Zero Dark Thirty' -

"Zero Dark Thirty" may be the best unentertaining movie I've seen this year. Does that make sense? If not, then bare with me because I want to discuss Kathryn Bigelow for a moment. Her second film based on the war on terror is just as much an imperfect but interesting take on the past decade as “The Hurt Locker”, and has roughly the same type of main character. (Did we send anyone over there who wants a life outside work?) It’s very easy to follow, comes off impeccably well researched, and has a terrific performance sure to get some award consideration from “The Help’s” Jessica Chastain.

So why am I saying unentertaining? Bigelow begins the film with black screen, the voices from 9/11 of those trapped in the towers and on Flight 93 echoing in the background. From there we meet the CIA operatives, Dan (Jason Clarke) and Maya (Chastain), who are going to take us through the timeline of events between 2003 and Bin Laden’s murder in May of 2011. Scenes of torture will undoubtedly make you wince and inspire debate as to their relevance (the film displays waterboarding and various other types of degradation, as well as Obama’s pledge in 2008 that we do not torture) and through these interrogations the name of Bin Laden’s courier comes to the forefront, leaving Maya (Dan decides to head back to Washington for some R and R at a certain point, and we don’t blame him, but more on him later) to try and track him with the rest of her team while also trying to prevent another attack.

The actual finding of this courier is deliberately paced, filmed like a stake-out where most of the time we’re just waiting for the constant surveillance and deal-making to pan out. These are scenes that produce antsiness as well as a certain amount of tedium, perfect for getting us right into these character’s frame of mind. These are again people with zero outside life, you’re not likely to find much personality at all. Chastain’s Maya is solitary and emotionally closed-off, but it’s her progression from what seems like the red-headed choir girl in the beginning of the film to full-fledged blood-hound by the mid-way point that really stays with you. And Clarke’s intimidating and cruel Dan character, the one inflicting all this torture, is just as interesting. You could do a whole movie alone about how a sadist by profession like this manages to come back home and try to live a normal life. Just this movie does not do that, probably because if any of these people showed a modicum of emotion, every one else would probably look upon that person as some evolved alien life form.

The last half hour where we finally get to the house in Pakistan where Bin Laden is holed up contains the film’s best stuff. The weighing of probabilities, the little tid-bits of unbelievable info like the proximity of the house to the Pakistani West Point, and the gigantic mess this may be if it turns out that their hunch is wrong. The actual raid itself is filmed in the dark, usually through night vision and comes off as suspenseful and gripping, but don’t start chanting “USA, USA” just yet. The outcome is just as much a mixed bag of winners and victims as the past decade has been and there’s more of an atmosphere of “what now?” than anything else.

“ZDT” is anti-glamour, anti-hero, and anti-pretty little red bow at the end. There is so much to chew on here. I can’t possibly say it was enjoyable and I’m still not even sure how much I even liked it but I’m more than positive that I have an infinite amount of respect for the way Bigelow and her screenwriting partner Mark Boal have chosen to tell it.