Zero Dark Thirty Review: 50 Shades of Abu Ghraib

ZeroDarkThirty2012PosterRe: The Title,  I know it’s inappropriate but I couldn’t resist.

If you were to have asked me yesterday what movie perfectly encapsulates the phrase “Edge of your Seat”, I would have answered Kathryn Bigelow’s last film, the 2009 Best Picture Winning The Hurt Locker.  If you asked me again today, I would be torn between that film and Bigelow’s newest collaboration with writer Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty.  Regardless of your opinions of her politics, I doubt there are very many people who would deny that Ms. Bigelow has a unique way of grabbing the audience by the balls and never letting go (Cinematically speaking of course;  perhaps the same is true in real life but you’d have to ask James Cameron that question).  In Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow takes the piercing humanity and gripping suspense of The Hurt Locker and applies it to a much more focused story to produce one of the best films of 2012.

The Plot:

Ballbuster level: 100

Ballbuster level: 100

As I’ve been doing of late for my plat sections, this is the exact summary from IMDb.  Important thing to note here?  Osama Bin Laden has an IMDb page.

“A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May 2011.”

The Players:

Put on something blue and she'd match the flag behind her

Put on something blue and she’d match the flag behind her

A complete unknown several years ago, Jessica Chastain has proved herself to be one of the most skilled and versatile actresses in Hollywood today.  Between this, The Tree of Life, Take Shelter, The Help, Coriolanus, ,this year’s Lawless, Mama and more, Chastain has had a way of melting into her roles that most actresses have not been able to.  After her Golden Globe win and Oscar nomination for her role as Maya in Zero Dark Thirty, however, people will finally at least have something definitive to describer her as “That Girl From…”.  Based on a real CIA operative who remains undercover with her identity protected, Maya is just as gripping of a protagonist as Jeremy Renner was in The Hurt Locker.  The main difference is that Maya has a specific obsession; to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden.  The film doesn’t canonize her as a saint, but recognizes her as someone who’s obsession became the key factor in the success of that mission.

Looks like somebody missed the casual friday memo

Looks like somebody missed the casual Friday memo

Unlike The Hurt Locker though, there are no two or three primary supporting characters that surround our protagonist for the majority of the film.  Instead we get a wide range of acting talent to surround Chastain, and while none of them have received much in the way of recognition I greatly respected the performances of a few individuals in particular; Jason Clarke (Public Enemies, Lawless) as the weary torturer-in-chief Dan, Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights, Super 8) as the CIA station chief that consistently butts heads with Maya, Jennifer Ehle (Contagion, The King’s Speech) as a fellow operative who is the closest thing to a friend Maya ever seems to have, and Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes, Kick-Ass) as the main liaison between Maya and the Intelligence Agency’s directorship who’s touch love is featured most prominently in the film’s promotional material.

Random Comments:

real stealth helicopter– The Stealth Helicopters we see near the end for the actual mission are F*cking Awesome

– Any Call of Duty Fan will either be pissing themselves with excitement for the final assault on Bin Laden’s Compound or feeling completely insignificant due to the fact that this shit isn’t just a game to some people

Film-Zero_Dark_Thirty-0e1c2– The Soundtrack does an excellent job of setting an ominous tone without getting in the way of the actual suspense that Bigelow is able to achieve with her camera work and the actor’s performances

– The torture scenes are the most controversial of the entire film and for good reason, but I personally think reg_1024.zero5.cm.121812that anybody who thinks that torture played no role whatsoever in the capture of the real Bin Laden is fooling themselves

– There is no such thing as too much James Gandolfini

– The fact that the likelihood of Bin Laden being in the compound was less than the calculated likelihood of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction is an interesting highlight of how much the reliability of intillegence comes down to a role of the dice

The Verdict:  9.0/10  Incredible

+ Amazing (and in my opinion Oscar Worthy) performance by Chastain

+ Incredibly suspenseful direction by Bigelow

+ Very capable handling of some very heavy and recent subject matter

+ A feeling of humanity added to the people behind the headlines

Other Reviews: (As it seems I’m the only person who hadn’t seen this yet)

The Devil’s Advocates: 5/5

The Movie Review Blog: “The Best Film I have seen in 2012”

The Entertainment Maven: “Bigelow’s most accomplished and rewarding film to date”

K & B Hype the Movies: A

Committed to Celluloid: 4.5/5

Dan the Man Movie Reviews: 9/10

Fast Film Reviews: 4.5/5

FlixChatter: 4.5/5

The Focused Filmographer: 4.5/5

CinemaWolf: A-

Mercifully Short Reviews: 8/10

KCG Reviews: 4/5

On the Screen Reviews: 3/5

PG Cooper’s Movie Reviews: B-

Cinematic Corner: 62/100

i’m a movie nerd: “I’m glad I saw it, but I never want to see it again”

Gamerscene: “Didn’t hit the mark exactly”

The Daily Rich:  [Read the Review]

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About r361n4

I'm a student at the University of Washington Majoring Business. I've always loved movies and my goal is to work on the financial side of the film industry. Until then though, I figure I'll spare my friends from my opinions and shout them from a digital mountaintop for anyone who's interested. After all, if a tree falls in a forest and nobody blogs about it, does it really happen?
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21 Responses to Zero Dark Thirty Review: 50 Shades of Abu Ghraib

  1. ddog13 says:

    Thanks for linking me 😀 I find it hilarious that bin Laden has an imdb page.

  2. ckckred says:

    This is one I still need to see. I’m planning on watching it this weekend hopefully and I don’t think I’ve heard a single negative comment on it. Nice review.

  3. ruth says:

    Thanks for the linkage. I appreciate this much more than The Hurt Locker. It’s hard to watch at times but it’s a well-crafted film. Totally agree about the soundtrack, it enhances the mood without being distracting or overly-manipulative.

  4. I wish I had liked this as much as you ( + many other people ) had. I think I set my expectations way too high for this one. But that being said, it’s still a good film. I’m curious to see how the Academy responds next month.

    Thanks for the link! Adding your site to my reader (:

  5. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Andy. This movie kicked my ass up, down, all around and I was really satisfied at the end. I get why people wouldn’t like this one, but still, you can’t lie about the last 45 minutes. They are just too awesome. Way too awesome to be exact. Thanks for the linkage too, brotha!

  6. Mark Hobin says:

    I LOVED Zero Dark Thirty, but your opening statement forced me to choose. I’d have to pick “The Hurt Locker” over this, but it’s a “Sophie’s Choice” dilemma. Both are incredibly good.

    • r361n4 says:

      I think I’d go with Hurt Locker too, it is tough though. They’re very similar and very different in a lot of ways. HL is a lot more character focused whereas Zero Dark Thirty is more focused on the mission, but as well as Chastain did Renner simply knocked it out of the park

  7. Osama bin Laden has an IMDb page … I have a feeling that speaks volumes about our culture, somehow, but I don’t feel like thinking about it right now. 😀 This is another gem of a review, and I appreciate the round-up of other blogger reviews, as I’ll want to go back and read them all in more detail after I’ve seen the movie for myself.

  8. Emma says:

    Still waiting to see this when it comes out – but everything I read about it makes me more interested in the film. I tell you though, it’s going to have to be good to beat The Hurt Locker! As the saying goes “the first ones easy…. the second ones a different story.”

  9. Nice review, Andy. LOL at your “Call of Duty” note. 😀

    As you point out, its well acted, intense and controversial. What more could you ask for?

    • r361n4 says:

      I’m not exactly sure what else you could ask for, but apparently some people disagree. I’ve seen more than a few bad reviews for this movie that I don’t really understand

  10. fantastic review and I liked how it kept our attention through the drama as well as the action. suspenseful.

    • r361n4 says:

      Thanks, so many action based films have you saying “just get on with it already’ but some of the briefing room scenes are nearly as tense as the final shootout here

  11. Pingback: Rorschach Awards Part 4: Top 10 Movies of 2012 | Rorschach Reviews

  12. Awesome review (and very funny!)

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  14. Pingback: Zero Dark Thirty Review. Bring me people to Kill. « JLO

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