Published on January 11th, 2013 | by Chris2
Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Is Zero Dark Thirty a war movie? I was hoping it would turn out to be that way, but alas, I'm afraid I just can't place it in this particular genre. I'd have to say it falls somewhere between a "docu-drama", a typical "intrigue" picture, and maybe, possibly, at the end, something slightly resembling a war movie.
I'll approach this a little backwards this time, and throw my final verdict out first. I frankly didn't find Zero Dark Thirty all that it was hyped up to be. Maybe I've seen one too many war-movie scenes of violence, but the story played out like this to me: Somebody gets
tortured, (sorry, questioned) there is much head scratching, arguing, and wailing about it, lather rinse, repeat, and then there's a mission and a body bag. OK, so throw in a couple of suicide bombers at regular intervals to keep things interesting and that's about it, really.
I definitely caught the same "vibe" from Bigelow here as in The Hurt Locker (I will have to go rewatch this and finally review it). That sort of "unspoken" dialogue that is there, is also present here. Unfortunately I didn't find it saying much to me. Jessica Chastain as "Maya", the dedicated analyst only seemed to either be pensive, or various levels of pissed off, never straying much from that. Ditto pretty much everyone else, except for the prisoners who appear reasonably scared-shitless under duress. Joel Edgerton's role as one of the SEAL team... well, I really didn't see the point to be honest, other than to put a somewhat familiar face to movie-goers in one of the chopper seats. "Dan" (Jason Clarke) just wasn't scary or intimidating enough for me, either, as the CIA "bad guy."
As for the controversy surrounding the "torture" scenes, I don't have a lot to say. I'll just say that I know this sort of thing happens, that it has gone on for a long time, and that I really don't need to know that it happens. That's how it works. We all sleep quite soundly every night, with that thought buried deep in the back of our brains, but we don't bring it out. There are people whose job it is to do things that are universally considered "not nice." If you're shocked by this fact, you need to come out of whatever bubble you're in and look around.
Moving on to the "money shot" of the movie, the raid on the compound.... I'm torn I guess. What may be based on reality (and whether you actually believe everything went down this way is another matter) doesn't necessarily make for great film. It felt pretty clinical. I was more "at the edge of my seat" during the scene with the car and the field agent than during the final battle. Which was pretty bloody one sided. Like I said, it may have went down like this, but I never "felt" it. If anything I felt like I was watching an episode of COPS or something.
Making the inevitably comparison to The Hurt Locker, (and yes these are two entirely different films) I think that there was a great attempt to duplicate some of the "feel" from that, maybe it wasn't intentional and that's just Bigelow's style. If so, I don't think it worked so well here. Is it Oscar worthy? I certainly don't think so. Not at all. Not in any respect, actually. But then I'm not involved in all of that, which is probably a good thing. It also makes the 157 minute runtime seem quite a bit longer.
Would I recommend you run out and see it this weekend? I'm going to say no. Unless you really like the methodical intrigue and docu-drama style of film. Sometimes it works great (think Tinker Tailor...), if you can supply a decent level of suspense and tension, but here, it just wasn't there for me. I'm sure others will disagree. I will give Zero Dark Thirty a solid 6/10. I just didn't feel it. It's definitely not a "war movie" per se.
Summary: The hunt for Osama should have been a bit more of an emotional and suspenseful journey, instead of the mechanical checklist of events presented here. I didn't "feel it" when I should have, and that's not good enough.