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Zero Dark Thirty Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 17 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted March 09 2013 - 04:38 PM

Zero Dark Thirty is the riveting, compelling and somewhat controversial account of the manhunt to locate and eliminate Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. As is the case with Lincoln and Argo (fellow nominees for the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2012), Zero Dark Thirty is based on fact and the outcome in never in question, yet it still manages to be intensely suspenseful. As director Kathryn Bigelow says, "The story was challenging because everybody knows the ending, but nobody knows how we got there." At the same time, there have been outcries in some quarters because the film suggests that torture does in fact sometimes produce valuable information. Zero Dark Thirty also received Academy Award nominations for Best Actress (Jessica Chastain) and Best Original Screenplay (Mark Boal), and it took home an Oscar® for Best Sound Editing.






Zero Dark Thirty 
Studio: Sony
Year: 2012
Rated: R
Program Length: 157 minutes                  Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p
Languages: English DTS-HD MA, English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio Descriptive Track, English Dolby Surround
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

The Program

Geronimo. For God and Country. Geronimo.

Zero Dark Thirty is the riveting, compelling and somewhat controversial account of the manhunt to locate and eliminate Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. As is the case with Lincoln and Argo (fellow nominees for the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2012), Zero Dark Thirty is based on fact and the outcome in never in question, yet it still manages to be intensely suspenseful. As director Kathryn Bigelow says, "The story was challenging because everybody knows the ending, but nobody knows how we got there." At the same time, there have been outcries in some quarters because the film suggests that torture does in fact sometimes produce valuable information. Zero Dark Thirty also received Academy Award nominations for Best Actress (Jessica Chastain) and Best Original Screenplay (Mark Boal), and it took home an Oscar® for Best Sound Editing.

Zero Dark Thirty opens chillingly with a dark screen accompanied by the sounds of September 11, 2001. When the screen finally lights up we are at an undisclosed CIA "black site" somewhere in Pakistan in 2003. Dan (Jason Clarke), a CIA operative, is using "enhanced interrogation" techniques to try to extract actionable intelligence from Ammar (Reda Kateb), an Al-Qaeda prisoner who also happens to be the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Dan is hoping to learn the identity and plans of the senior members of The Saudi Group, Osama Bin Laden's leadership. On this day Dan is joined by Maya (Jessica Chastain), a young CIA agent who has just arrived in Pakistan from Washington. Ammar is tied up, deprived of food and sleep, and he is waterboarded, but he gives up nothing. Dan explains to Maya that breaking down a prisoner's will is a time-consuming process. Ammar, says Dan, "has to learn how helpless he is."

At the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad Dan introduces Maya to Joseph Bradley (Kyle Chandler), the CIA station chief. Maya and Bradley are destined to butt heads over the course of the next several years. She believes that no progress is being made in finding Bin Laden because the CIA believes that the terrorist is still operating the way he did prior to 9/11. As time goes along the focus seems to shift from capturing Bin Laden to trying to anticipate and prevent Al-Qaeda attacks on the homeland. However, Maya's position is that the best way to prevent future attacks is to capture Bin Laden, because the other Al-Qaeda leaders would prefer to focus on the Middle East and Europe.

Most moviegoers are already familiar with the broad strokes of what occurs next, as Maya becomes convinced that locating Bin Laden's primary courier is the key to finding where the Al-Qaeda leader is hiding. She does not buy into the conventional wisdom that Bin Laden is in a cave in the tribal areas of Pakistan. She is convinced that he needs to be in or near a populated area where he can receive reports and give orders. The way that she and her CIA associates accomplish this is fascinating, as they painstakingly (and sometimes unbearably) interrogate prisoners, bribe informants, occasionally get sidetracked by bad information, and see some of their comrades lose their lives in the process.

Few people outside the CIA know her name, but "Maya" is a real person and deservedly is the central character in Zero Dark Thirty. However, this does not in the least diminish the efforts of the members of Navy Seal Team 6, who are portrayed as brave, professional and efficient when they assault Bin Laden's lair in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Jessica Chastain's outstanding performance is ably supported by an excellent ensemble case which includes Jennifer Ehle as Maya's friend and fellow CIA operative, and James Gandolfini as the CIA Director (unnamed in the film, but clearly based upon Leon Panetta). The film crackles with realistic dialogue, and director Kathryn Bigelow deserves special mention for the way that she makes a complex story thoroughly comprehensible.

Zero Dark Thirty is an outstanding, exciting film which should be seen by anyone who wants to understand what was involved in bringing "the greatest manhunt in history" to a successful conclusion. The only caveat is that some viewers may find the interrogation scenes difficult to stomach, although in truth I found them to be less disturbing than I had anticipated.

Note: There has always been some disagreement about the correct spelling of Osama Bin Laden's name. Some spell it "Usama Bin Laden," and indeed he is referred to as "UBL" in Zero Dark Thirty. The film's title, incidentally, is a military term for thirty minutes past midnight.

The Video

This is a Sony release, so it goes without saying that the 1.85:1 1080p image is flawless. The image is highly detailed, with beautiful on location filming in India, Jordan, Poland and England. Colors are generally muted, which is in keeping with the nature of the story and the presumably accurate depiction of the drab CIA offices in Islamabad. Special mention must be made of the Seal Team 6 assault upon Bin Laden's compound, which takes up the last thirty minutes or so of the film and plays out in real time. The assault takes place in near total darkness, yet the shadow detail is so good that the viewer sees everything which needs to be seen.

The Audio

The outstanding lossless 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio is the equal of the Blu-ray's video. As noted, Zero Dark Thirty won the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing (an award which it shared with Skyfall), and the audio is terrific. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout, and the surround channels have plenty to do. The film accurately recreates terrorist attacks in Islamabad and London, and the Bin Laden attack is punctuated when Seal Team 6 loudly blows up the helicopter which crash landed at the beginning of the attack.

The Supplements

The extras on Zero Dark Thirty consist of four featurettes which are shown in high definition and English stereo.

"No Small Feat" is a brief making-of featurette which focuses on the work of director Kathryn Bigelow. It has a running time of four minutes.

"The Compound" is a very interesting look at the how a replica of the Bin Laden house in Abbottabad was built from the ground up in Jordan. The filmmakers went to great lengths to make the compound appear as authentic as possible, and indeed it looks just like the photographs I have seen of the original. This featurette has a running time of a little more than nine minutes.

"Geared Up" is an insightful examination of how the filmmakers used military experts to help the Bin Laden assault scenes appear as realistic as possible. The actors went through intensive military training in Jordan. The production team also acquired authentic military equipment, but they had to make educated guesses about the appearance of the stealth helicopters because that information remains highly classified. This featurette has a running time of seven minutes.

"Targeting Jessica Chastain" gives the actress an opportunity to discuss in great detail her approach to playing Maya. The other members of the cast give her high praise for her dedication and professionalism. This featurette runs a bit more than five minutes.

Also included is a DVD of the film and instructions for downloading or streaming an UltraViolet copy.

The Packaging

The Blu-ray and DVD are packaged in a standard-size, two-sided Blu-ray case, which comes with a cardboard outer sleeve.

The Final Analysis

Zero Dark Thirty has deservedly been recognized as one of the finest films of 2012 (notwithstanding the torture controversy), and Sony has given it the Blu-ray treatment it deserves. However one might feel about the "enhanced interrogation" scenes, the film is engrossing, suspenseful and exciting. It is expertly directed and features a talented cast of actors. One thing is for certain - it will almost certainly remind you of where you were when you learned that Osama Bin Laden is dead.

Equipment used for this review:

Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specifications by Gregg Loewen
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable

Release Date: March 19, 2013




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#2 of 17 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted March 09 2013 - 04:52 PM

Great review and great film. I never really understood why the Academy took a "stand" against the "torture" and it seems they pretty much swept the film under the rug. I understand the actual events of torture were controversial but it seems some people took it out on the film as if it was the director, writer and cast doing the actual torture. Roger Ebert was one that seemed offended by the "real" events and took it out on the movie. I wonder what type of uproar would have happened had the filmmakers left out the torture. Shortly after watching this I watched APOLLO 13 and what amazed me about both films is how the directors were able to pull you so into the ending yet you already knew how it was going to turn out.

#3 of 17 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted March 09 2013 - 04:55 PM

Originally Posted by Michael Elliott 

Great review and great film.

I never really understood why the Academy took a "stand" against the "torture" and it seems they pretty much swept the film under the rug. I understand the actual events of torture were controversial but it seems some people took it out on the film as if it was the director, writer and cast doing the actual torture. Roger Ebert was one that seemed offended by the "real" events and took it out on the movie. I wonder what type of uproar would have happened had the filmmakers left out the torture.

Shortly after watching this I watched APOLLO 13 and what amazed me about both films is how the directors were able to pull you so into the ending yet you already knew how it was going to turn out.


Thanks. I felt the same way about Argo and Lincoln, although Argo did juice up the ending to make it more dramatic than the real events.


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#4 of 17 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted March 09 2013 - 05:30 PM

I agree, I didn't understand the "controversy."


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#5 of 17 OFFLINE   Walter Kittel

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Posted March 09 2013 - 08:14 PM

Disturbing & Misleading - Walter.
Fidelity to the source should always be the goal for Blu-ray releases.

#6 of 17 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted March 09 2013 - 08:23 PM

Originally Posted by Walter Kittel 

Disturbing & Misleading

- Walter.

It's just a movie.






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#7 of 17 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted March 10 2013 - 03:58 AM

The controversy is because Hollywood and the academy are run by a bunch of liberals who oppose torture. I mean would you rather the movie be toned down and romanticised? It had to be done in real life and that is that. Otherwise, we wouldn't have this movie now, would we? This is exactly what people do. If there is percieved animal cruelty or politically controversial material in a film, critics and the academy will rip it apart.

#8 of 17 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted March 10 2013 - 04:17 AM

No more political statements!  It's against our posting guidelines.







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#9 of 17 OFFLINE   sidburyjr

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Posted March 10 2013 - 04:29 AM

" The film's title, incidentally, is a military term for thirty minutes past midnight." I know that Roger Ebert's film review mentioned this but I had never heard this and neither had any of the retired military people that I talked to. I had always heard that "oh dark thrity" was military jargon for the middle of the night. But I don't know how you would put that title on a poster or on the film itself without it looking dorky. I'm glad to see that you thought the Blu-ray was good because the film deserves a good video even if it was my last choice for best picture (of the four that I actually have seen so far.) dick

#10 of 17 OFFLINE   sidburyjr

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Posted March 10 2013 - 04:31 AM

No more political statements!  It's against our posting guidelines. Crawdaddy

To what political statements are you referring? dick

#11 of 17 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted March 10 2013 - 04:35 AM

Originally Posted by sidburyjr 


To what political statements are you referring?

dick

Statements you can't read right now!







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#12 of 17 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted March 10 2013 - 06:07 AM

Originally Posted by sidburyjr 

" The film's title, incidentally, is a military term for thirty minutes past midnight."
I know that Roger Ebert's film review mentioned this but I had never heard this and neither had any of the retired military people that I talked to. I had always heard that "oh dark thrity" was military jargon for the middle of the night. But I don't know how you would put that title on a poster or on the film itself without it looking dorky.

 


Kathryn Bigelow mentions it in the supplements. I never heard the term before this film came out. I was in the Navy 40+ years ago, but I wasn't a Seal so I was not famliar with their jargon.


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#13 of 17 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted March 10 2013 - 06:25 AM

Am I the only one who thinks this movie didn't celebrate or condemn torture? A person's existing thoughts on the topic heavily informs what they think the 'message' (for lack of a better word) of the movie is.

#14 of 17 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted March 10 2013 - 10:13 AM

Originally Posted by TravisR 

Am I the only one who thinks this movie didn't celebrate or condemn torture? A person's existing thoughts on the topic heavily informs what they think the 'message' (for lack of a better word) of the movie is.


I agree with you. The movie presents it in a matter-of-fact manner. And the fact is that Leon Panetta conceded on Meet the Press last month that "enhanced interrogation" did play a role, although he does not believe that it was necessary:


CHUCK TODD: Zero Dark Thirty. You-- you’ve-- we’ll-- we will show a little bit here. We’ve got James Gandolfini of course most of us just call him Tony Soprano playing you as CIA director. There you are out there. I won’t ask you to comment on the acting, but there’s been a serious debate about-- the movie seems to say-- seems to indicate that enhanced interrogation techniques or torture was used to get information to get bin Laden. Is that true?

MR. PANETTA: Well, you know, first of all, it’s a movie. Let’s first remember that.

TODD: Okay.

MR. PANETTA: I-- I lived the real story with the bin Laden operation.

TODD: Well, then tell us what-- what…

MR. PANETTA: And the real story is that in order to put the puzzle of intelligence together that led us to bin Laden, there was a lot of intelligence. There were a lot of pieces out there that were part of that puzzle. Yes, some of it came from some of the tactics that were used at that time, interrogation tactics that were used. But the fact is, we-- we put together most of that intelligence without having to resort to that.

TODD: And you think you could have gotten it without any…

MR. PANETTA: I think we could have gotten bin Laden without that.


Meet the Press Transcript February 3, 2013


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#15 of 17 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted March 11 2013 - 07:28 AM

Sony has provided links to some clips from the film. There may be spoilers, so proceed accordingly.


A. On Blu-ray & DVD Trailer RT 02:09

http://flash.sonypic...640x480_mov.mov

B. Film Clips

01. "She's A Killer" RT 00:18

http://flash.sonypic...640x480_mov.mov


02. "You're In Luck" RT 00:13

http://flash.sonypic...640x480_mov.mov


03. "Two Narratives" RT 01:06

http://flash.sonypic...640x480_mov.mov


C. Geared Up

The Real Thing RT 00:39

http://flash.sonypic...640x480_mov.mov


D. Targeting Jessica Chastain

Attracting Jessica RT 00:53

http://flash.sonypic...640x480_mov.mov


E. No Small Feat

"The Story Is What Matters" RT 01:08

http://flash.sonypic...640x480_mov.mov


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#16 of 17 OFFLINE   Ashly Yeo

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Posted March 11 2013 - 03:15 PM

My most sincere apologies if this little snippet from IMDB.com is deemed inappropriate but I find it extremely funny:

James Gandolfini, who portrays former CIA head Leon Panetta, sent a note to Panetta before the film came out: "I'm very sorry about everything. I apologize. You're like my father, so you'll find something to be angry about, but please let me know." For months, silence. Then, as the film was in the middle of awards season in early January, screenwriter Mark Boal told Gandolfini, "Leon Panetta would like your phone number because he doesn't know how to get in touch with you." The actor was surprised. "He's the head of the CIA! He can't find me? Come on, really?!"



#17 of 17 OFFLINE   TonyD

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Posted March 11 2013 - 04:58 PM

I thought it was one of the best of the year and was second to Argo. Normally I buy movies that I liked but I have ZERO replay interest for the movie. I saw it and that was enough. Just don't foresee myself wanting to rewatch it.
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