‘Zero Dark Thirty’ review

1134604 - Zero Dark Thirty

“Zero Dark Thirty” is the much-buzzed about Oscar favorite of the decade-long hunt for terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. By the end of it, I felt that I’d sat through every one of those 10 years.

Technically, it’s superbly put together. Kathryn Bigelow’s direction is excellent, packed with quality performances mixed with solid dialogue, but “ZDT” felt more like a series of loosely-connected interludes with ban Laden the dangling carrot just that far out of reach from his pursuers.

1134604 - Zero Dark ThirtyThe film’s final act where S.E.A.L. Team 6 approach bin Laden’s hideout is tense stuff. As the soldiers (including Joel Edgerton, “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” and Chris Pratt, “10 Years”) utilize their night vision goggles and storm the stronghold in precision fashion, Bigelow makes you feel like you’re right there with them so despite knowing the conclusion, you’re on the edge of your seat in the film’s most exhilarating moment. It’s scenes like this and in Bigelow’s 2008 Oscar winning “The Hurt Locker,” that make me wonder how she would fare directing a Bond-like action film if she didn’t consider it beneath her talents.

For the most part, Bigelow keeps a methodical pace with scattered moments of adrenaline-rush excitement that shows her enjoyment for the thrill of the chase rather than making the chase thrilling.

1134604 - Zero Dark ThirtyMaya (Jessica Chastain) is a young CIA officer focused on tracking information that leads to bin Laden. Maya is the best chance for Mark Boal (Bigelow’s frequent collaborator and “Hurt Locker” Oscar-winning screenwriter) to connect the audience with the lead character, but he always keeps her at a surface level so we can only guess at her motivation. I was glad Boal didn’t bog her down with some boyfriend or the mother yearning to see her kids back home. Maya is a driven character, but we have little reason to invest in her.

Chastain gets a few showcase scenes, which she utilizes to make her the Best Actress Oscar frontrunner. Every so often through the next decade we check back in on Maya and a rotating assortment of agents (including Jennifer Ehle, Kyle Chandler and Harold Perrineau) feverishly scouring every lead in pursuit of bin Laden. You’ve heard all the controversy about the torture scenes, but as someone who watched “24,” it’s not that much more graphic than what you’d see on network TV.

Once a promising lead develops, Maya has to convince her cautious superiors (including Mark Strong, “John Carter” and James Gandolfini, “Killing Them Softly”) that she’s done her part and finally found bin Laden.

zero-dark-thirty - soldiers prepare for raid

The 9-11 terrorist attacks and Osama’s death still feel a little too fresh in my mind to plunk down $40 and munch on some popcorn to take in on the big screen. Bigelow isn’t trying to entertain the audience, but I’m not sure what she wants us to take from the film as the end credits start. The film isn’t an inspirational piece, a rah-rah “Go USA!” propaganda piece either nor will it spark conversations of American interrogation techniques.

It’s simply there for the audiences to make what they will. “Zero Dark Thirty” is a competent film, but for me the curtain wasn’t drawn back enough to reveal anything to offer more than what’s already known about the hunt for bin Laden.

 Rating: 5 out of 10

Photo Credit: Jonathan Olley/Columbia Pictures

13 thoughts on “‘Zero Dark Thirty’ review”

  1. I see your point. Chastain’s character is on the surface for most of the time so we the few parts where she can show how worn out and upset she is , well, this was what made her the front runner. However thats how a movie like that should be, after all, everybody in that black site should be top class officers, with little emotion and ready to act under any pressure, and boy she can show how to release pressure as for instance where she yells at the cia chief .

    If every oscar frontrunner movie should have a very clear meaning or deliver any clear message so it can be well evaluated by you, you have limited competence to criticize movies.

    1. My problem with Chastain’s performance was she didn’t have enough to do to warrant being the Oscar front runner.

      Watts was remarkable in “The Impossible” and Lawrence equally was as compelling in “Silver Linings.” Watch them, then get back to me if Chastain should have won.

    2. My problem with Chastain’s performance was she didn’t have enough to do to warrant being the Oscar front runner.

      Watts was remarkable in “The Impossible” and Lawrence equally was as compelling in “Silver Linings.” Watch them, then get back to me if Chastain should have won.

      Not sure what movies to see this weekend? Check out my reviews at http://jeffreyklyles.wordpress.com/

Alright, so what do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s