Movie Review – Zero Dark Thirty

WARNING: Spoilers. There are plot giveaways in this review. (But nothing big so stop having a cry and read the damn review!)



IMDB Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (106,693 votes)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

The poster for Zero Dark Thirty.

The poster for Zero Dark Thirty.

Zero Dark Thirty was on the verge of being great. On the verge. But instead, its likeness to The Hurt Locker spoiled it. So then, Zero Dark Thirty is very, very good. I know – sucks to be Bigelow right?

My main fault with the movie was that it’s climactic ending was long. Forcibly long, actually. It was suspenseful film-making, sure, but it felt unnaturally long. For a scene that everybody watching already knew the end to, I didn’t see how stretching it over half-an-hour helped in any way. It was well shot, but it was probably 5 minutes too long.

I can understand why Bigelow wanted to lengthen it, though. She wanted to delve a little into the characters’ minds, and she wanted to add a bit of suspense to a film, which in parts, lacked the very thing. And she did it well. It was suspenseful. The characters shone. People question how accurate the goings-on were in Zero Dark Thirty. It doesn’t even matter. One should just sit back and admire the riveting suspense – a suspense that went on for too long, unfortunately.

The Hurt Locker, Bigelow’s last film, gave her an invitation into greatness; the film ended up winning 6 – count ’em – 6 Oscars, including Best Picture, and Best Director. I found the two (ZDT and THL) very similar films, as they both tackle the theme of war’s necessity, and how it impacts a person’s life. They’re both good films, too.

"You really believe this story?......Osama bin Laden?"

“You really believe this story?……Osama bin Laden?”

But I found The Hurt Locker a little more enjoyable. Rather than having the lone main character that we care for (Maya), and the next best character (Jessica) leaving us half way through the film, The Hurt Locker focused in on three main characters that lasted the journey – James, Sanborn, and Eldridge. The motivations were well established for the three, and we were more into all three being a team. In Zero Dark Thirty, it’s all about Maya, and even though Bigelow tries to establish other connections with the other people in Pakistan, the only meaningful connection dies, leaving us questioning the film itself.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. It was a very good movie. I guess I just wasn’t blown away, because of how similar I thought it was to, not only The Hurt Locker, but to a lesser extent, Homeland.

Jessica Chastain is incredible in the film. Her emotions, incredible and many, flew in flying colours from her body throughout the film, and what was more incredible was that she didn’t use any exaggerated facial expressions at all. Her performance was subtly sublime. It was a masterclass in acting. Any young actors should take a step back, watch Zero Dark Thirty, and study how well Chastain conveyed her character’s feelings. An A-grade performance indeed.

And the home of the brave.

And the home of the brave.

Good to see some Aussies getting a go on the big stage, too. Cinematography, and 4 or 5 important characters. Go us!

My favourite thing about this movie, besides Chastain, was the reversal of roles in Act 1. Think about how Muslim Extremists are thought of in common society; without mercy, without conscience, and without the slightest hint of morality. Now, think about how you felt about the Americans in the first half an hour of Zero Dark Thirty. I know. Genius, right?

Bigelow purposely portrayed the Americans as evil, cold people. We, the viewer, felt empowered to feel for the Muslim Extremist being tortured. The torture was purposely graphic, but not degradingly graphic. After all, Bigelow wouldn’t want to release a film humanizing Terrorists to the American public, would she?

The screenplay was excellent, and the dialogue well written. That’s the one thing from this film rivaling The Hurt Locker – the language. Maya, especially, is engaging and stout in her views and tactics. I admired that about Zero Dark Thirty; it wasn’t afraid to bring in a woman to show the boys how to be men.

Kathryn Bigelow - Pakistani Gigolo.

Kathryn Bigelow – Pakistani Gigolo.

Zero Dark Thirty, another exploration of how war effects the human mind and concience, was a wake-up call to other directors – specifically, the Michael Bay’s of the world, who can only make a picture if it has been injected with a budget on steroids.

“This is how, with a budget under $40 Million, to direct a film that matters today”, Bigelow yells from her spa filled with money.

MY RATING: 8 out of 10. (A very solid 8 at that.)

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