Saturday, January 12, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty (2012) 3/5


I want targets. Do your #&%$ing jobs. Bring me people to kill.

 I usually agree with "the critics" on most movies. The Rotten Tomatoes "tomatometer" has been my guide as to whether or not I should check out a movie for more than a decade. Still, about once a year a movie comes along to unanimous critical acclaim that I find to be simply mediocre. Rarely is this movie a bad movie (see: A History of Violence). On the other hand, it's usually pretty good, but it just doesn't deserve the "best of the year" tag (see: The Artist, A Beautiful Mind, Crash, etc.). I mention all of this because this is how I have felt about both of Kathryn Bigelow's war films. The Hurt Locker was solid, but nowhere near the level of Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, Up, or Up in the Air, and Zero Dark Thirty is sitting at 93% on the tomatometer and is a mildly impressive retelling of a truly exceptional story.

 Zero Dark Thirty is billed (both in print and in its trailer) as the story of Seal Team 6 and the killing of Osama Bin Laden in May of 2011. This is only true if you happen to show up two hours late for the movie. Sure, the last half-hour are a Blackhawk Down-style tag-along with the Seals, but the viewer has no investment in any of the individual members of the team. They are anonymous with their night vision and uniforms during the operation, and whatever meaningful dialogue they do share falls flat because they are nameless, well-trained men with guns. The other two hours of the movie follows Jessica Chastain's CIA operative Maya (again, no last name, no background, and no family) as she goes on a decade long quest to locate Bin Laden. This sounds more interesting than it is.  It mostly involves torturing detainees, staring at computer screens, and following dead leads.

 In all fairness, a big chunk of my feelings about this movie probably come from my feelings about the "War on Terror" in general. The movie does not take a solid political stand instead attempts to bridge the gap by not shying away from the horrors of the process, but also showing the horrors brought upon innocents by the groups led by Bin Laden. One could say that since May of 2011, there have been no major terror attacks, so the job was successful. My retort would be how many future terrorists have we birthed by torturing and killing not just men, but fathers, uncles, grandfathers, and brothers?

 Bottom line: This is a pretty good movie about a subject that is easy to stay disconnected from on the other side of the world. That being said, I really wish I had remained disconnected.

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