“Can I be honest with you? I am bad fucking news. I’m not your friend. I’m not gonna help you. I’m gonna break you. Any questions?”
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton and Chris Pratt
Zero Dark Thirty is a docudrama movie that takes a closer look at the 10-year-long hunt for Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda terrorist leader and orchestrator behind the 9/11 attacks. Following Maya, one of the CIA operatives, we are shown the events leading up to how bin Laden was killed at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team.
This film has big ideas, bin Laden has been such a notorious figure in our post 9/11 world that material for the film was in abundance. Nevertheless, it feels as though it came up a bit short.
There are very few things about the film I actually enjoyed. Firstly, Jason Clarke was a standout actor for me, but with a cast filled with the kinds of people it was, it can’t have been that hard. As a CIA interrogator, Clarke is a charismatic guy and gives the most vicarious performance. He was the one capturing my attention and making me want to know what was going to happen next. Through water-boarding, humiliation, beatings and rewards for information, he took on the role of good cop and bad cop when faced with militants.
Chris Pratt and Joel Edgerton as two of the Navy S.E.A.L’s were also really good. Knowing Pratt from Parks and Recreation and Edgerton from Warrior it was nice to see how they adapted to these roles. They gave a performance with more feeling than their co-stars which made them instantly likeable. These are the types of characters that should have been explored more.
Jessica Chastain’s character, Maya, was very annoying. I also think they might have slightly based her on Carrie Mathison from Homeland. The exceptions being that we know Carrie’s story and can understand why she is irrational, but when Maya gets an idea and hangs onto it because she is obsessive, it’s just annoying. There is no reasoning with the girl and I hate that. She has no redeeming qualities. Even in the beginning when she is more subdued and innocent, she seems too fragile to be in such a hostile environment.
The plot of the film is very hollow and there are a lot of unnecessary scenes. We all know how it is going to end, bin Laden is caught and killed, so it could have taken more time to explore more appealing characters or story lines, even giving a bit of background information to certain characters and their behaviour. There are a lot of different options and avenues that could have been looked into, especially with the length at which it stands. There are no excuses.
The cinematography towards the end of the film was really bad. As the invasion of the bin Laden’s house was done in the middle of the night, we are shown what the Navy S.E.A.L team see through their night vision goggles. This green filter was horrible, the contrast was too weak so it was hard to depict what we were seeing and with so much going on, it was hard to keep track of what was happening. It would have been better to either shoot it in the dark in a film noir type fashion, or make the night vision goggle scenes clearer – more akin to Silence of the Lambs maybe. It just doesn’t work, and with it being the climatic part of the film, it feels as though Bigelow blew it.
Zero Dark Thirty was very hit and miss. I couldn’t really settle as there was no underlying characters I sympathised with as none were given character archs. While this may have been an attempt to make it more about the events rather than the characters, I think it was the wrong decision. I didn’t care for the ones that died and I felt nothing when there were close calls. I think some backstory is necessary as this makes it more accessible for audiences to get involved with the proceedings of the film, and if you can’t get the audience on board and excited about the film, you’ve done something very wrong.
With nothing drawing me in, Zero Dark Thirty wasn’t done well enough. It gets a 5 as the events which unfolded were quite interesting and there were moments when I felt I was on the verge of being pulled in, though it just doesn’t quite cut it. A few of the actors were good: Kyle Chandler, Jason Clarke and Chris Pratt, but then there were those to counter it. It’s nothing special, and it’s more of a take-it-or-leave-it kind of deal. I’m quite disappointed though as it had the potential to be something more, and I haven’t got a clue as to why it has an Oscar nomination.
Star rating: 5/10
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
Running time 157 minutes.