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Zero Dark Thirty - quick review


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#1 of 12 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted January 13 2013 - 02:59 AM

Kathryn Bigelow and her writing/producing partner Mark Boals return with a film about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, "Zero Dark Thirty" starring Jessica Chastain as Maya, a young CIA analyst who spends almost a decade (after 9/11) tracking down scraps of leads to find Bin Laden. It's a long film that focuses on high points of the research and intel efforts (along with the human costs for that intel) that offer the leads to finally pin point the location of Bin Laden to the CIA/Maya. There are scenes of torture for leads and information. There are scenes of frustration and imminent danger of terrorism in the middle east. My issue with the film is that I just didn't really find a foothold in the film with the script from Boals. Sure, Maya is the lead character, and we're supposed to allow her to lead us through the story, but there's something missing for me in how the script unfolds, perhaps I felt Maya was too much of an emotional void to tap into her story, I felt very little for the film's conclusion or subject matter in the end. Was it a lack of suspense? Or maybe a bit of coy-ness in the end, I still just feel shortchanged. Maybe I just felt like most of the 3rd act was directed by a 2nd unit director. So the film is a mixed bag for me, I wanted to like it more, but I just don't. I give it 2.5 stars, or a grade of C+.
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#2 of 12 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted January 14 2013 - 01:47 AM

Good synopsis.  I have no clue why "ZDT" - or "Hurt Locker", for that matter - got so much praise.  Both are decent films but no better than that, and I think Bigelow is a completely ordinary director.


I saw "Django" a couple of days before "ZDT" and the difference in directorial skills between Bigelow and Taratino seems startling.  QT takes weak material and makes it great, while Bigelow takes great material and makes it mediocre.


IMO, she's an average director.  Any of scores of working directors could've made "ZDT" and it would've been the same movie - she seems to have no signature style or anything particular to bring to the table.


And I agree that the conclusion lacks tension/drama, but it's not because we know the outcome.  We knew how "Titanic" and "Apollo 13" would end, but both still had dramatic/involving finales.


The end of "ZDT" was shockingly free of drama, and I suspect a lot of that is because we knew virtually nothing about the Seals.  The movie's trailers make it look like a large portion of the movie follows the Seals, but it's really only about 20 minutes or so (I'm guessing).  we learn next to nothing about them so we don't invest in them.  I get that it's Maya's story, but a little more character development for the Seals would've given the third act more impact - I'm not even sure we learn their names!


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#3 of 12 ONLINE   TravisR

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Posted January 14 2013 - 03:11 AM

I have no clue why "ZDT" - or "Hurt Locker", for that matter - got so much praise.  Both are decent films but no better than that... And I agree that the conclusion lacks tension/drama, but it's not because we know the outcome.  We knew how "Titanic" and "Apollo 13" would end, but both still had dramatic/involving finales.

I didn't agreed with all the praise heaped on The Hurt Locker either but I thought Zero Dark Thirty was deserving of the praise. Looking at The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, I think ZDT is easily the better movie. As for the last section of the movie, I would comapre Zero Dark Thirty to Apollo 13 and Titanic in a positive way. Even though I knew the basics of what happened and who would & wouldn't die, I still found the sequence to be extremely tense. I even chuckled to myself at one point since I was really into it despite having no doubt of the outcome of the scene.

#4 of 12 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted January 14 2013 - 04:10 AM

Originally Posted by TravisR 


I didn't agreed with all the praise heaped on The Hurt Locker either but I thought Zero Dark Thirty was deserving of the praise. Looking at The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, I think ZDT is easily the better movie.

As for the last section of the movie, I would comapre Zero Dark Thirty to Apollo 13 and Titanic in a positive way. Even though I knew the basics of what happened and who would & wouldn't die, I still found the sequence to be extremely tense. I even chuckled to myself at one point since I was really into it despite having no doubt of the outcome of the scene.

I'm with you Travis.  I thought this was a very good film and I prefer it over The Hurt Locker.  Furthermore, I thought the last section of the film was very tense and I was emotionally invested because I was thinking of all those people that died not only in 9/11, but those other terrorist acts they showed in the film as justice was being handed out.








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#5 of 12 OFFLINE   Brett_M

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Posted January 16 2013 - 01:45 AM

I'm with you Travis.  I thought this was a very good film and I prefer it over The Hurt Locker.  Furthermore, I thought the last section of the film was very tense and I was emotionally invested because I was thinking of all those people that died not only in 9/11, but those other terrorist acts they showed in the film as justice was being handed out. Crawdaddy

I agree with you both. I found the climax to be riveting. I thought the film's lack of straightforward narrative was it's strongest suit. I told my wife that I thought the film would be a cross between Body of Lies (a criminally overlooked picture) and The Kingdom (another favorite of mine although considered a pedestrian action film to most). I was wrong and suprised at how much I enjoyed it. I felt like an analyst myself juggling names, dates, locations. It was episodic but that put the audience in Maya's POV. This was a deliberately paced character study and in my opinion a much better film than The Hurt Locker which was much more conventional in terms of linear storytelling and character development. I was fully invested in Maya's character and Chastain was fabulous in the role. It was also nice to see Jason Clarke in a meatier film role. The guy should be a huge star. He was the best thing in Chicago Code on Fox (cancelled with pretty good ratings considering it was not a reality or game show) and Showtime's Brotherhood is one of the best shows ever on pay TV. As for Bigelow, all I can say is she fully understands the scope of a film of this magnitude and is capable of anything. My biggest shocks in terms of Oscar snubs this year are hers and Ben Affleck.
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#6 of 12 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted January 16 2013 - 10:27 AM

I just got back from the film and thought it was terrific. It's certainly going to make my top 3 of the year and I might even put it at #1. I thought THE HURT LOCKER was great but it wasn't Best Picture IMO. I thought the direction here was terrific and after watching the film I can add Bigelow's Oscar snub as another insult this year. I thought she did a remarkable job with all the material. This here is an incredibly long movie yet she perfectly holds it together and I think there's a terrific flow through all of it. There's a lot of ground covered here but I thought it all fit together wonderfully and in the end it's a very tense little gem. The direction was also terrific simply because we know the ending of the story yet you still get caught up in it. This is especially true for the ending because we know all the details (meaning who lives, who dies) and yet I was holding my breathe throughout the entire sequence. Again, I thought the direction here was great and especially how she went back and forth with the look of the scenes and when to use the night vision. I'm really not sure what the controversy is all about but I guess some people are using the praise and attention that the film is getting to try and push their own things.

#7 of 12 OFFLINE   Russell G

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Posted January 23 2013 - 04:34 AM

I really enjoyed both ZD3 and Hurt Locker. What was great about Hurt Locker is it put a face to the danger the men and women in that job have, and didn't shy away from the personal struggles that can come with literally putting your life on the line to defuse a bomb. I found it interesting, suspenseful and a great film.


What I liked about ZD3 is that it was like a flip-side to The Hurt Locker. It plays as a twisty procedural, and reminded me of shows like "Homicide: Life on the Street" and "The Wire". Those were shows that allowed the story to unfold and build instead of counting on action beats. I liked that ZD3 put the investigation front and center, before the characters even, and didn't try to shoe-horn in personal garbage like a dumb romance or something to try to tweak the heartstrings or whatever. 9/11 was horrible, the torture of prisoners for information was horrible, the terrorist acts that continued through the investigation was horrible, the sitting on the info while waiting for the red tape/bureaucratic process to happen was horrible! It all added up to a fascinating, and I thought, surprisingly non-political political thriller. What could of easily been a "rah rah AMERICA GOT 'ER DONE!" type piece of sap film making (see "Act of Valor" from last year) ended up being very smart and no holds barred. I give 4/5 and have no problem with it getting best picture. (Though as stated before, "Django Unchained" is a far better movie.)


I also like that Scott Adkins shows up for a brief bit and never once is forced to throw a kick or snap a neck. I wonder how that came about? Just a fun little thing for action genre fans to enjoy, it's like casting Jason Statham as a unicorn for a 5 minute scene in a kids film. I enjoy the simple things. :)



#8 of 12 OFFLINE   Rhett_Y

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Posted January 25 2013 - 10:41 AM

I guess I am in the opposite club here. I thought the HL was a better film. This one was good but the build up was actually kind of boring. I did not get invested with the main characters path on trying to find OBL. The last half of the movie was by far the best section of the film. From the time they find the location to the actually entry was great. The lead up to that was boring for me. Yes there were spots of highs, i.e. the bombing, but even then, I didn't care for the characters who were killed. Oh, the other part I liked was the very beginning with the sounds of 9/11. I actually thought the way this was done had more impact than seeing it. I too give this film an overall rating of C+
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#9 of 12 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted January 25 2013 - 11:20 AM

Originally Posted by Rhett_Y 

I guess I am in the opposite club here. I thought the HL was a better film. This one was good but the build up was actually kind of boring. I did not get invested with the main characters path on trying to find OBL. The last half of the movie was by far the best section of the film. From the time they find the location to the actually entry was great. The lead up to that was boring for me. Yes there were spots of highs, i.e. the bombing, but even then, I didn't care for the characters who were killed.

Oh, the other part I liked was the very beginning with the sounds of 9/11. I actually thought the way this was done had more impact than seeing it.

I too give this film an overall rating of C+

Well, that's the key element on why you didn't like it as much as somebody like myself.







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#10 of 12 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted January 25 2013 - 11:28 AM

Originally Posted by Rhett_Y 

I guess I am in the opposite club here. I thought the HL was a better film. This one was good but the build up was actually kind of boring. I did not get invested with the main characters path on trying to find OBL. The last half of the movie was by far the best section of the film. From the time they find the location to the actually entry was great. The lead up to that was boring for me. Yes there were spots of highs, i.e. the bombing, but even then, I didn't care for the characters who were killed.

Oh, the other part I liked was the very beginning with the sounds of 9/11. I actually thought the way this was done had more impact than seeing it.

I too give this film an overall rating of C+


Do you mean the scene where

the Chastain character's female co-worker/pal gets killed?


If so, that was maybe the worst scene in the movie.  As soon as it started, I knew exactly what would happen - as

movies don't suddenly devote themselves to secondary characters unless something "big" will happen.  Also, the woman's stupidity made it even worse - her refusal to follow security protocols turned it into an even more ridiculous scene.


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#11 of 12 OFFLINE   Wayne_j

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Posted January 26 2013 - 05:07 AM

I liked ZDT much more than The Hurt Locker. I just feel that it had much more of a story.

#12 of 12 ONLINE   DaveF

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Posted May 01 2013 - 06:02 PM

I don't regret watching it, but I didn't enjoy Zero Dark Thirty. It had some significant flaws.

 

First, I found it a Rohrshach test on torture as American policy. This was very distracting to me.

 

Second, I didn't understand if it was trying to be an accurate telling of the hunt of OBL. It was so dry, so lacking in personality or empathy, it seemed wholly concerned with a chronological telling of recent history. But it seemed to have major factual error in the beginning. And it wasn't clear if the lead, Maya, was a real person or narrative hook to guide us through the story. 

 

Third, it had no heart. For a story centered on the most wrenching day in over a decade of US history, this had no heart. The characters weren't very interesting. The final assault on OBL compound was antiseptic. Maya seemed to be someone real, but to no avail. There was a hint she was an uber-genius, recruited at out of high school in the CIA...but that line was raised and dropped. If factual, why bring up a pointless detail that can't be answered, and only distracts. If fantasy, why raise a backstory and not tell it?

 

I can't recommend ZDT. It serves as neither education nor entertainment, leaving me only depressed after viewing.






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