On Saturday night, my husband and I went to see Zero Dark Thirty. I label this post as “sort of” containing spoilers because I think we all know what this movie is about– the CIA operative that led to the killing of bin Laden–but I do let loose a couple of little details here, so be forewarned.
My one word review: Interesting.
As I did in my Les Mis review, where I admitted my sappiness, I have to admit some background information here. I fell asleep within the first five minutes of The Hurt Locker. I know, I know. When I tell people this, they gasp in horror. And I’ve promised those same shocked people that I would try and watch it again, eyes open. I don’t know what to tell you, Blogtropolis. I just wasn’t into it. Or I was really tired. I’m not sure.
With that in mind, I sort of dreaded seeing ZDT, since it was another military-type movie by the same director, Kathryn Bigelow. But as I tell my son when he complains about going to karate–once we commit to something we have to see it through. I’ve committed to seeing the Best Picture Nominees, so I grabbed the AMC Stubs card and headed out for date night with the husband. It helped to remind myself that Chris Pratt had a role in the film, and I am a big Andy Dwyer/Mouserat/Parks and Rec fan. And, at least I had minimal background knowledge of the capture of bin Laden. With The Hurt Locker, all I knew (and continue to know since I dozed off) is that there was some bomb that military people had to dismantle? I’m not even sure that’s right, so I’ll move on…
Discussing in the car afterwards, my husband and I shared the same main impression. There are a TON of things going on in the world, courtesy of our government and CIA and the military that we don’t know about, that we are glad we don’t know about, and that we would never want to do. God Bless them all for keeping us safe. You think your job is tough? Bah! It’s not driving-through-crowded-Pakistan-streets-looking-for-a-dude-on-a-cell-phone-while-people-want-to-kill-you-for-being-American tough.
Anyhoo, back to the movie. The beginning consisted mostly of the CIA agents torturing detainees to get information. The middle focused on Jessica Chastain, as a CIA agent named Maya, figuring out where bin Laden was hanging out (without the help of the tortured detainees since Obama had put the kabbash on that). The end covered the military operation they executed to go get ’em. The beginning was somewhat disturbing, the middle was kind of long, and the end was sort of intense.
Maya was a neat character. We find out through a conversation with the CIA Director that she was recruited by the CIA right out of high school. I thought the most interesting things about her were her youth and inexperience, but they weren’t further discussed and didn’t much matter. She seemed smart and tough and her character didn’t waver in confidence the whole time.
The last shot of the movie is of Maya crying as she’s leaving in a big, empty military plane. I guess I get that. She’s finally showing her emotions. She is human after all- not the CIA machine she played. But it sort of felt like the movie makers got to last page of the script and were like, “oh yeah, this is supposed to be about her. Let’s make her cry at the end to show she went through something.” Because really, during the whole movie, she’s pretty sure of herself and her abilities. She witnesses water-boarding and various torture methods. She doesn’t seem thrilled about it, but she doesn’t screw up or protest or run away screaming either. She powers through. She fights with her boss. Even when her friend/co-worker dies at the hands of the terrorists (which we could see coming from a mile away) she keeps it together, only briefly sitting on the floor of her little workspace looking sad.
So while I rooted for Maya and admired her hair (really, it’s gorgeous), I felt the movie was more about the mission than her, which I was fine with because I learned how much brainpower and intelligence and money and thought and effort went into bin Laden’s demise. Besides that, I liked that the story featured a strong woman with no love interest. The torture scenes were disturbing, and then I felt uncomfortable when I realized how important they were to the operation. I enjoyed that Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights) had a supporting role, and Michael (Harold Perrineau) from Lost made a brief appearance, as did Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) as the CIA Director. I am glad they are all still working.
I was annoyed that the words “Zero Dark Thirty” weren’t uttered throughout the film (A note on that: my mother told me that she had a friend in the FBI who referred to waking up early as being up by “zero dark thirty,” and a quick Google search confirms it’s a military term for time). Also, I felt we were plucked from “Maya figures it out” mode to “Now we are with Andy Dwyer and heading in.” There was no build up about the Navy Seal team or their background and training, etc. I don’t believe it was even mentioned that they were Navy Seals. I guess that wasn’t the point, but it would have been informative to see the build up a bit more.
It’s definitely a good movie, but I would have preferred a more in depth look at Maya, or more of a detailed focus on the ending instead of the middle stuff. But that’s just me. It’s definitely worth your eleven bucks, but I wouldn’t put my money on it to win Best Picture.
Keep in mind though, this is from the woman who fell asleep at The Hurt Locker, Winner of SIX Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. So take that with a grain of salt!