One of the biggest and most controversial movies of the year is Zero Dark Thirty from Director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker). The movie’s production caused quite a stir from the conservative media (what doesn’t get their panties in a bunch?) when it was revealed that the CIA was providing Bigelow’s team unprecedented access to information regarding the killing of American enemy number one Osama Bin Laden.
Jessica Chastain does a nice job as Maya, a CIA Analyst who maintains the hunt for OBL, long after everyone else has “given up” or at the very least no longer “interested” in the search. The problem with Maya as a character is, this is her sole focus. She has no life, no friends, nothing accept the hunt.
About 90 minutes into the movie Bigelow gives Maya a few layers in one sequence where we get to see her interact with a colleague but it seems as if the scene was added as the result of some studio note to “lighten up” the character. I would talk about the other characters in this movie, but none of them mattered. We don’t learn anything about any other character beyond Maya.
With all the inside access and the idea that this movie is supposedly based on “facts,” we don’t really learn a “lot” about the search. Yes we find out the nuts and bolts of it, but a lot of the “key” moments in the film like the impact of the Obama Administration changing the focus from torture to investigation, or a bombing of a CIA dark site seems to be given short shrift to endless scenes of torture.
The movie seems to be in love with the idea of torture. The entire first 30 or 40 minutes is scene after scene of some guy being tortured for information. The problem is while graphic and seems to be a true depiction of the realities of torture. There’s no sense of urgency to it, no sense of “we need this information now!” It’s all hey, let’s let the guy sweat for a few days before we continue.
Judging the first 40 minutes on the surface it is hard not to think that Bigalow wants to make the point that the torture is key to everything. However, Bigalow starts showing random acts of terrorism. There’s a particularly effective scene where Maya is at a restaurant with a friend where a bomb goes off. This shows that terrorism can strike at anytime anywhere and that maybe. By sprinkling in “random” acts of terrorist acts (shown via TV news clips) is she coyly saying that torture didn’t stop these bombings?
From a directorial standpoint the movie is certainly watchable – but nothing that I haven’t scene done better in standard TV Procedural dramas. Bigelow seems to have hamstrung herself by not wanting to commit to a viewpoint, which a movie like this desperately needs. Instead she has created a “dry” by the numbers, cold, emotionally inert, just the “facts” procedural drama.
Audio includes English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Dolby Surround and English Audio Descriptive Service. Seems odd that there are no foreign language audio tracks. English and Spanish are the only subtitles included. The video quality of the 1080P transfer is nice and smooth, but not “spectacular.”
- No Small Feat (4 Min, HD) – This informative, but way too short feature goes behind the scenes on the making of Zero Dark Thirty.
- The Compound (9 Mins, HD) – This feature showcases the construction and components that went into making OBL’s compound.
- Geared Up (7 Min, HD) – We find out a bit about all the various military gear and advisors used to help the movie look real.
- Targeting Jessica Chastain (5 Min, HD) – This short is a profile of Jessica Chastain
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy
The movie works a lot better for me now, than it did in the theater, however it still so dry and slow that it does not hold up well to repeat viewings. The lazy Blu-ray/DVD release doesn’t help matters either. This disc is well worth renting, but unless you LOVE this movie and plan on watching it multiple times skip it.
- Movie – C
- Audio/Video – C
- Extras – D
Final Grade – C