Is it worth $10? Yes
Just because the search for Osama Bin Laden took ten years doesn’t mean “Zero Dark Thirty” has to feel like it takes ten years to watch. Overlong at 157 minutes but nonetheless an effective drama, director Kathryn Bigelow’s first film since her Oscar Winner “The Hurt Locker” (2008) notably drags for long stretches, often getting bogged down in drama and detail that’s not entirely relevant.
The focus is on CIA operative Maya (Jessica Chastain), who’s stationed in the Middle East and charged with tracking down 9/11 mastermind Bin Laden. She and fellow operatives Dan (Jason Clarke), Jessica (Jennifer Ehle) and others interrogate detainees using whatever means necessary to extract information, including waterboarding. (For those unfamiliar, this is when someone is tied down, the mouth is propped open, a mask is placed over the head and water is poured into the mouth, causing the sensation of drowning.)
Over time a series of dead ends causes a redirection of the CIA’s priorities, but Maya stays on the case with admirable determination. Chastain is solid as Maya, but the Oscar buzz surrounding her performance is shocking given how relatively straightforward the role is. She’s a woman in a man’s world hunting down (arguably) the most wanted terrorist in American history. Chastain is gutsy and necessarily feisty, but this performance is one-dimensional and should not be good enough to win an Oscar.
Ultimately the clues lead to Bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed, whom they follow to Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. At this point, with roughly a half hour left in the film, the now-famous Navy Seal Team 6 comes into play, led by Justin (Chris Pratt) and Patrick (Joel Edgerton).
So even though we already know how it ends Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal give us two hours of ups and downs in the search for Bin Laden, then show us how the mission went down. Here’s the rub: There are only so many detours in the search and CIA bigwig meetings that we should endure when we already know how the story plays out. Of course it wasn’t an easy process or final decision, especially when no one could be sure Bin Laden was there. But that doesn’t mean all the details and 15 minutes of “should we do this?” are justified.
Thankfully, the payoff is worth it. The execution – pun intended – of the mission, from planning to helicopter ride to finding Bin Laden to extraction, is perfectly paced by Bigelow, who is masterful in generating suspense in her action. It’s a riveting sequence that provides a highlight in the finale and therefore a positive lasting impression of the film, meaning people will be most enthralled by arriving at the destination rather than the journey to get there.
Anything related to 9/11 will strike a personal chord with American audiences, particularly when in regard to Bin Laden’s death. Perhaps Bigelow and Boal felt viewers would want as complete a story as possible, hence all the minutiae regarding the search. “Zero Dark Thirty” is always intriguing, but this is a case of too much of a good thing being a bad thing.
Did you know?
The acting director of the CIA, Michael Morell, has spoken out about the inaccuracies of the movie, specifically the “enhanced interrogation techniques” (i.e. waterboarding) that led to information that was key to finding Bin Laden.
|< Prev||Next >|