Thursday, January 10, 2013

Movie Review: Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty is an exhausting film. It's long and tedious. It's intense and shocking. You'll cringe and find yourself laughing at the most random, mundane things because of how dark and smothering the overall tone of the film is. As difficult as the film is to sit through, it's still amazing. A technical marvel that's beautiful to watch (even if it's content is jarring) and loaded with great performances, Zero Dark Thirty is easily one of the best films of 2012.

The film is based on the decade long manhunt for Osama Bin Laden. Jessica Chastain plays a young and determined CIA agent named Maya who devotes eight years of her life to capturing the terrorist mastermind. I shouldn't say devote, more like obsess. Her character is barely human. From her depiction in the film, Mayas work is all consuming. She barely eats, hardly sleeps and when awake, only focuses on the manhunt. Maya is a strong willed and intelligent person. She's pretty much always the smartest person in the room and must navigate through the sexist and bureaucratic nightmares of the CIA/political world, as well as the very real physical and psychological dangers she's faces in the line of duty.

Jessica Chastain's performance is the heart and soul of the film. The audience grows (colder) as Maya becomes more engrossed, and jaded, by her work. She can barely stand through the horrific torture sequences that open the film but by the second hour, she doesn't flinch. Instead you might become more enraged at how frustratingly incompetent our government appears to operate with all the behind the scenes spy stuff. Bureaucratic bungling becomes just as reprehensible as waterboarding over enough time. The film's final act, the raid on Bin Laden's compound, is dazzling. It's edge of your seat film making, which is quite a feat considering the entire world already new the end result (spoiler: they kill him). Director Kathryn Bigelow is an ace when it comes to building tension, and the way she handles all the military and CIA procedural stuff makes Zero Dark Thirty feel more like a documentary than a feature film sometimes, which reiterates just how good she really is.

I don't understand all the controversy the film has been generating. It doesn't promote torture in anyway shape or form. In fact it should be blatantly clear that the film as no agenda or political message behind behind it at all. This isn't go go USA propaganda or an anti-Muslim, pro torture film by any means. There's hardly even any real cohesive plot or narrative in the first place. The film jumps around between a span of ten years, following obsessive compulsive CIA agents damn near spiral into madness to accomplish their mission. Bigelow's film is like a two and half hour Nietzsche infomercial,

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
...that, and it's a damn fine movie.

(That is, without the doubt, the BEST trailer of 2012 also.)


  1. The length of the film is a little off putting but I have to admit that this review has helped convince me a little that it's maybe a good idea to disregard the length of the film and check it out anyway because it sounds really decent, I think I'm going to have to give it a chance.

  2. Thanks for the review, now I'm looking forward to it. :)

  3. I remember seeing the trailer, it looks good to me.

  4. What a great review sir. I am very much looking forward to this film. I love your blog!

  5. I could definitely give this a watch. Let's see if I do. As for the trailer, using that version of Nothing Else Matters... Mf. Just, perfect.

  6. I have to say that your review is making me a bit interested in seeing it. I won't lie in saying I haven't looked too deeply into it, but I was under the impression it was little more than flag-waving propaganda and, as such, I didn't much care. I might give it a look when it comes out on video.

    Thanks for the review.

  7. Yeah I'm reading through some of the reviews and people are claiming it promotes torture? I'm guessing that they're idiots because if anything, it shows how torture shouldn't be glorified.