Tag Archives: terrorist

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

“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

ZeroDarkThirtyZero 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.

Source Code (2011)

“What would you do if you knew you only had one minute to live?”

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga

It’s like the sci-fi version of Groundhog Day, yet rather than reliving a seemingly uneventful 24 hours, Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) has just 8 minutes to try and save thousands of lives at the hands of a terrorist plot.

Source Code manages to engage the audience immediately and have them hooked on a recurring 8 minute loop, it’s a hard task to do when written on paper, yet director Duncan Jones is successful in bringing it to life.

Source Code opens with Captain Colter Stevens awakening on a train, sat opposite a pretty and seemingly friendly Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan). As if they were in in mid-conversation, Warren picks up the topic about her career and begins chatting away, yet Stevens has no idea how he got there or even who she is. A trip to the bathroom confirms what he least expected, he is in the body of another man.

Before figuring out what is going on though, a bomb explodes and he awakens again, yet to find himself in a chamber. Here he is able to communicate with Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) via a computer screen. She tells him he is part of a government operated programme called the Source Code, which allows people to relive the last 8 minutes of somebody else’s life. His mission is to locate the bomb on the train and to find the bomber within the 8 minutes he has been given. The train he awoke on had been blown up earlier that day. Everyone on board died but he now occupies the body of a man that he was best genetically suited with. With threats of another attack on downtown Chicago, the team operating the Source Code hold hope that if the bomber is identified, it would prevent the loss of thousands of more lives later that day.

In a race against time we see Stevens pushed to his limits, having to access his military training in order to save the lives of many people. His exhaustion is apparent after he is killed time and time again, yet he discovers a little more with each attempt.

Stevens is adamant that he could save all the people on the Chicago train as well as locate the bomber, yet Dr. Rutledge who is behind the scheme cannot seem to stress enough that this is not time travel, but more “time reassignment”. They can only hope to prevent a further attack on Chicago, and what has already happened that day will remain unchanged.

Gyllenhaal manages to bring Stevens to life, giving him a deeper quality that so many actors may have failed to do if given this role. It could have potentially been another movie about a jar-head on a mission, but Gyllenhaal’s portrayal allows the audience to really connect with the character and sympathise with him. His romantic connection with Monaghan is very believable too, especially as they don’t have much screen time together.

Audience members will either really enjoy the film for what it is, or pick too much at its inconceivable plot. The ending doesn’t help matters though, giving critics more leverage to poke holes in the film. It seems possible that the director strived to leave the film on such a high note with a ‘feel good’ factor, that the actual concept and logic behind Source Code was thrown off-balance.

Star Rating:  7/10

Directed by Duncan Jones.

Running time 86 minutes.