Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Can you make a good movie from a bad script? Yes, and that movie is called Zero Dark Thirty.

Most of the film is the informative, though poorly told, story of a young woman at the CIA whose job and obsession is to find Osama Bin Laden. We are given vital pieces of information, and experience the frustrations, of this global manhunt. Along the way, unfortunately, the petty ‘n’ plucky heroine has to constantly assert herself as correct. She just thinks something is so, and then it becomes right. She is so infallible that it is both exhausting and eye-rolling to watch her. She is also so arrogant it makes her impossible to root for; in the film’s most ludicrous line, she states that she believes her colleagues died and she survived because she is “meant” to find Bin Laden. What?

Fortunately, it all comes together in the last 30 minutes or so. The climax, a retelling of the operation that killed Bin Laden, is so well told and thrilling that it almost makes up for the rest of the film. Better yet, the information we were told throughout the film (what is Bin Laden’s complex like? who will be there?) helps orient us during what is an otherwise dark and jerky sequence. This was a prime example of quality filmmaking, which most of the movie could not live up to.

There has been much controversy over the film’s torture sequences; I personally did not find much stock in them, but that is up to the viewer to decide. What I found interesting was how it didn’t seem to take much for interrogators to resort to waterboarding; whether that is fiction or fact, I don’t know.

Which is what makes my critique of the film a bit reserved – without knowing the facts, I don’t know how far I can criticize the film. Maybe Jessica Chastain’s character really was right, all the time, always. Even if she was, though, that’s not how you make a movie. I like my protagonists with a touch of fallibility, and Zero Dark Thirty does not meet this base requirement.

Stray observations:

  • Did anyone else notice the Windows 7 and Google Chrome on a computer in a scene taking place in 2005?
  • Did the brunette woman get a southern accent halfway through the movie or was that just me?
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