|Image from: imdb.com|
I’ll get straight to the point with this one, I have a lot of issues with Zero Dark Thirty. For a film with such Oscar buzz surrounding it I was surprised to see such a negative reaction from audiences before seeing this last night.
Being one who likes to make up his own mind about things however, I still had high expectations for this film, especially after the impressive debut from Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker.
I have to say though, Zero Dark Thirty let me down big time and left me disappointed and angry that it wasted so much of my life with a close to three hour run time. Now I know run times shouldn’t be important and I’m happy to sit and watch a film for four hours straight providing it warrants that length. This doesn’t.
For fifteen minutes of the film practically the same scene and conversation is replayed over and over again but in a different location. Granted it’s at a crucial point of the film where the government are debating whether or not to act on the intelligence as to the whereabouts of Bin Laden but this portion went on for way too long, to the point where by the time they have agreed to act, I really couldn’t care.
This and the recurring, lingering shots of Maya, the lead character crying or sat on the floor looking angsty for what seemed like an eternity just dragged the film down completely. Perhaps if I had cared about Maya even a little, this would have been different, but I didn’t care in the slightest. Which brings me on my next problem with the film.
Maya, played by Jessica Chastain is just so unlikeable. In fact everyone in this film is pretty unlikeable. When we are first introduced to Maya, we are given the impression that she is uneasy with the concept of torture to gain information from terrorists and for a few moments I thought we could be in for a great story about a persons moral struggle as she gets deeper into this world. How wrong I was though.
Instead, after about half an hour, she has become completely fine with torture, has no qualms with taking part in it and for the rest of the film plainly states that she wants to kill Bin Laden, which I find just as controversial as the debate on torture. What’s even worse is how they make it seem like a personal vendetta after her friend is killed by a suicide bomber.
The film tries really hard to give an impression that Maya is a strong, independent, empowered woman in a mans world but it fails miserably. Mark Boal, the screenwriter, seems to think to be the above, you have to swear pretty much every other sentence and walk around yelling at everybody, all the while trying to be one the “lads”. If anything it just made Maya completely one dimensional.
Then you have Dan, played by Jason Clarke who interrogates and tortures terrorists for information. A lot of his dialogue in these scenes seemed to consist of a lot of “bros” and “dudes” which made me cringe every time considering he’s supposed to be working for the government, not some stoner surfer dude. It’s embarrassing to watch and I just lost all interest in that character too.
The dialogue progressively gets worse, with lines such as “I’m going to smoke out everybody involved and then I’m going to kill Bin Laden” (Dun Dun Dun!!!) or my personal favourite, “Who are you?…” “I’m the motherfucker who found this place!!!”, all of this coming from supposedly professional government agents and officials.
Now, onto the torture scenes which have been the main talking point of the film since it’s release. The opening interrogation scenes are pretty brutal and surprisingly the highlight of the film. I say this not in a sick or twisted way, but in the sense that these are the only moments where I felt something, the only moments which made me think about the world that we live in and what is right and wrong.
This whole debate as to whether torture is right or wrong really comes down to how you feel when you watch these scenes I guess. I personally found it difficult and shocking to watch. I don’t think that Bigelow is trying to glorify torture though, it’s simply something that couldn’t be overlooked in the film, because it played such an important part in the story.
Had Zero Dark Thirty stayed within this dark, gritty reality instead of turning into your stereotypical action/thriller I would no doubt be raving about it, it annoys me that it didn’t.
There are a few brief moments of excellence, the sequence in Pakistan where they are trying to track the messenger being my highlight. However these moments are to few and far between for it to save this film.
On a side note, I would like to single out one performance in the film which truly blew my away. John Barrowman, who is great at standing in the background looking nervous a lot. And his one line, wow, awe inspiring. Even that had fuck in it.