Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Film Review: Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Zero Dark Thirty (Review)
United States/2012
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

Zero Dark Thirty follows the career of Maya (Jessica Chastain), a young CIA agent, which was spent gathering information on Osama Bin Laden. The story moves through several vital points, including interrogations and terrorist attacks, that lead up to a daring operation. (You're better off reading about or watching the film than reading my description, or you'd be reading a much longer review.)

The story is based on actual events. Now, you can expect many of these events to be somewhat distorted considering how many facts are actually out there for the public concerning this operation - it's hard to measure a film's authenticity when I can't actually verify the key moments of the film. As with most historical films, you shouldn't absorb every scene in a film as a fact, especially a film based on timid information. I won't assume it's all true, so I'll call this a work of fiction with an authentic background.

The story goes over a long period of time. Starting briefly with the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack and ending with the May 1, 2011 raid. The first thing I'd like to note is: the events in this film feel very disjointed - disconnected - as if they have little significance, and you, as the audience, have to work to piece everything together. Next, the first act was repetitive as it followed a predictable formula; torturous interrogation, terrorist attack, torturous interrogation, terrorist attack, etc. I didn't find the investigation interesting or immersive since many small details were spread too thin; it doesn't delve deep enough to justify the prolonged scenes. By the time the film reached the last act, I was unfortunately exhausted and bored. The raid sequence was well-crafted, but underwhelming; this is due to my own expectations stemming from critical reviews, so I won't fault the film much. However, the ending of the film drags on and on, and the sense of accomplishment or victory is never quite achieved.

A major offense in this film is the severe lack of character development - the film really lacks a soul, an identity. Characters are quickly introduced, but never develop an actual character. So, when I see Maya crying during the ending, I don't really care. The fact that Maya is the main character and she barely has any personal traits is bad; she's also not developed as a likable character, her frustration is never really explained, so you can only assume the feelings and motives that influence her decisions and choice of words. The seals are introduced during the final act, although they are not actually introduced per se - it's more like they appear during the final act. Character-wise, the film is not very informative when it comes to the people in the operation; again, this is likely due to the lack of viable information of the situation. I'm not an emotionless person, but when a character I don't know or haven't connected with dies, I simply can't care.

The acting is great from the entire cast. Jessica Chastain leads this film with a ferocious performance. She can be tamed, but she can also be vicious. She adds some spunk to her lifeless character, but can't save the hollow character writing. On that note, although much of dialogue feels authentic and is delivered fluently, there is some very ill-fitted, cheeky dialogue; I thought it was completely misplaced and I would say it's out of character if they were any consistent characters to begin with. As a film based on a historical event, the writers seem to focus on trivial events more than the actual event; the research or investigation is lifeless, as if the writers failed to research the event themselves. The film is shot adequately; the final raid sequence was often too dark, though, so you may end up adjusting your eyesight more often than enjoying the film.

Overall, Zero Dark Thirty is too long, unfulfilling, and tedious. The few action sequences are great, but too repetitive and formulaic. The research and investigation lack depth and fail to conjure interest. And, finally, the film fails to create character - the film has no identity. However, the film features great performances, a good soundtrack, and a solid finale; not enough to redeem the film, but it's something. Hopefully a documentary is released with more facts, I believe that may be more interesting and entertaining. I recommend a rental before purchasing.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, including torture, and nudity.

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