Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Zero

Solid, well made political thriller that gets better as it goes along, culminating in a glorious last third that’s just about some of the finest, well shot and paced filmmaking I’ve ever seen. A masterpiece of editing and pacing in a way. Tense and thrilling and beautiful in its own strange way; just solid, solid stuff.  The plot is also surprisingly pretty easy to follow, though it does take a while before things finally start to fit together. And what a crazy story, if truly based on real events as claimed. Not sure how accurate it is given the main character’s rather melodramatic motives behind her desire to capture Osama Bin-Laden, but hey, crazier things have happened, I guess. None that I can think of off the top of my head that were this high-profile, but I’m sure they happened somewhere at some point. Probably.

Anyway, though the film is pretty good, it’s also long and does take a bit to get into, and some of the acting is questionable. Jessica Chastain is good for the most part, though some of her delivery is stiff, mostly due to the occasionally clunky dialogue she’s forced to deliver. It’s fine for the most part, but the technical nature of it all occasionally strains believability. People don’t talk like that. But her transformation from this **SPOILERS** passive, somewhat squeamish agent to this ruthless, aggressive hunter type **END SPOILERS** was interesting and very well handled.  But there are other stiff performances here and there; no one really stands out as being particularly great, though I really liked Jason Clarke, the guy who plays the torturer at the beginning. He sort of grounds the film in a weird way; there’s a certain humanity to the performance, a reluctance to continue despite his obvious “talent.” And what bizarre cameos too, I mean, Mark Duplass, really? And John Barrowman, the guy from Torchwood? How random.

Overall, I liked the film. It’s not the greatest thing ever, but it’s a step up from the also pretty good The Hurt Locker; it’s very well made and has a lot of great scenes, especially the last 30 minutes or so with the raid and all that. The violence is quick and brutal, almost shocking in its efficiency at times. Nothing is sugar-coated or glamorized here, especially the torture scenes which yes, do happen and yes, are very unpleasant, as they should be. I’m not sure what all the controversy with them is about exactly. It’s war. This stuff happens. And this stuff undoubtedly did happen in the search for Bin Laden, and probably quite often. And it’s not as though the torture is portrayed as this fun happy thing that everyone involved enjoys. There’s nothing thrilling about it, nothing honorable or pleasant. The film even goes out of its way to show how psychologically damaging torture can be to the torturer. When was the last time you saw that in a movie? And to think such methods weren’t used to extract information from prisoners during war time is just silly. So, stop complaining people. Damn.

I’ll be honest: though I liked “Hurt Locker,” I never considered it the big crowning achievement in female filmmaking it was hailed as being. It was a good film, but nothing particularly great or unique. This film, though, is different: it’s extremely well made, well paced, just well handled overall, more so than most films. And though I still think Kathryn Bigelow is somewhat overrated as a filmmaker, she’s definitely talented, and absolutely one to watch. Oh, and Chastain sure is sexy here. The subtle **SPOILERS** lesbian overtones were a nice touch, even if the film does seem to heavily imply that the only reason she pursued Bin Laden with such dogged determination was because her female friend was killed in that bomb blast. **END SPOILERS** A bit silly, but, like I said earlier, crazier stuff has happened, and it does add a personal, human touch to the pursuit. Another excellent filmmaking flourish.

So, pretty good film; long but very enjoyable if you’re into this kind of stuff. Worth watching, for sure.

 

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