Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mixed Signals on Zero Dark Thirty


                                                                     



For movie fans there is nothing better than sitting in a theater watching images come to life on the big screen. We've seen many films this year, and the most memorable are the ones that moved us in some way. With all of the rave reviews for Zero Dark Thirty which is based on the CIA's hunt for Osama bin Laden, I couldn't help but feel that there was something missing.

The movie has already received four Golden Globe nominations, and is sure to receive Oscar nods for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress; yet, instead of leaving the sold out theater cheering, I felt like some key scenes had been left on the cutting room floor. The special effects and action sequences were first rate, but there could have been more character development. Just when the young undercover CIA officer who devoted her life to tracking down terrorists divulged that she had been recruited straight out of high school, they moved onto the next scene.

 I was hoping that there would be a back story explaining how she lost loved ones in 9/11, or was a gifted student of Arabic, but those were unanswered questions. Instead, the movie focused on her determination to capture bin Laden for ten years while sacrificing any kind of personal life in the process. This was no fault of Jessica Chastain who played the role brilliantly, but her portrayal would have had even more depth, had we learned about what led her on this career path.

Afterward, while my husband and our close friends raved about the movie, I shared my concerns. Then someone pointed out that it would be difficult to develop a multi-dimensional character in only two and a half hours, and I couldn't have disagreed more. I explained how some of the best sitcoms could make you laugh and cry in less than thirty minutes. I also mentioned how last year's Academy Award winning silent movie The Artist, made me run through the gambit of emotions without even uttering a word.

When I first heard about how the courageous Navy SEALs risked their lives to raid bin Laden's compound, I was overcome with joy, as were countless others who shared this great moment in history. Though the movie was visually stunning, and has received high accolades for director Kathryn Bigelow, who steps into war movies like a fearless general; I didn't get that jolt I was expecting.

As I write this, I realize that this may have been Bigelow's intention. The message that I may have been overlooking is that though this was a huge step in the right direction, things will never be the same for the victims of 9/11, and their families. While I was searching for answers, the true meaning of Zero Dark Thirty seems to have been written between the lines. Perhaps we were not supposed to feel satisfied, as we must continue to keep our guard up against all forms of terrorism.


45 comments:

  1. Sounds like an interesting film to watch, I myself go for the lighthearted films such as musicals and comedy.
    Loved reading your post.
    Yvonne.

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  2. Her other war film, The Hurt Locker, felt cold and impersonal as well. Sorry, my money is on Lincoln or Argo for Best Picture, and no one is getting the Best Actor Oscar but Daniel Day-Lewis.

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  3. A friend suggested that we see this movie this weekend but I am ambivalent about it. I am not a person who likes action/violent movies, but I am curious about this one. Your review was excellent and you put forth questions that I would also ask. I always look for the human aspect in the character, why people do what they do, what are they about. Being a woman, I want to know more. From what you said, this is probably not the movie for me.

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  4. Great perception of the movie. I want to see it.

    Hugs and chocolate,
    Shelly

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  5. Sounds like the movie accomplished one of the coolest aspects of creating art: it got you all thinking and talking about it afterward. Bonus points to Kathryn Bigelow for that.

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  6. The movie was shown at the Newseum in Washington D.C. a couple of days ago. There were many protesters dressed in orange jump suits who covered their heads with black hoods. They didn't want the show to run because of the scenes that depicted water-boarding which was not the way Bin Laden was revealed. There are other things there as well that the protesters found offensive.

    I'm glad you were able to write about your observations honestly. Hollywood always changes the story to increase dramatic effect. There are hardly any pictures made that follow the history in the story. They always, to some degree, play for drama and action. Zero Dark Thirty is a movie. It is not history and all those who see it should be aware it does not tell the unaltered truth.

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  7. How I dislike how Hollywood glorifies war. Having lived through the London bombing it is so sad that the world never changes, that we human beings never stop killing each other.

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  8. This movie is on my list to see. While I think I might have preferred a single line saying her favorite uncle was killed in 9/11 or something, I think I will enjoy the overall movie. Jessica Chastain is extremely talented...I just read she was nominated for an Oscar for this role.

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  9. Yvonne - I also enjoy comedies and musicals, but there is a lot to be said about a well done drama. Thanks Yvonne!

    Alex - I agree about Hurt Locker, but the critics loved it. I'm really surprised that Kathryn Bigelow isn't even nominated though both Zero Dark Thirty and Jessica Chastain are. Daniel Day Lewis was great as Lincoln, but could he sing like Hugh Jackman? It might be a close race.

    Arleen - It wasn't my first choice, but I'm glad I saw it. Strangely I began to appreciate it more, as I was writing this. We both enjoyed crying through Les Miserables. Thanks Arleen!

    Shelly - Let me know what you think. Thanks Shelly!

    Luanne - She does deserve bonus points. Sadly, the Academy Awards nominations committee doesn't seem to agree.

    Yvonne - It did show some torture scenes, and I think it tried to stay as truthful to the events as possible without being a documentary.

    Carole - I can't even imagine what you went through. It is extremely sad that there is so much violence in the world.

    Carol - I agree that just a line or two would've been helpful. If you do see it, let me know what you think.

    Julie

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  10. WOW! I am duly impressed by your insights about this movie. It's been a very long time since my hubby and I went to the movies, because neither of us can bear to sit still for that long. This movie does sound somewhat intriguing, but I have a feeling Smarticus would rip it to shreds over anything he perceives as unrealistic or politicized. (verrrrry annoying!)

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  11. Hi Julie,

    I seldom see films, but what you wrote so eloquently makes me want to go and check this film out and see what I can decipher from it.

    And indeed, all forms of terrorism must keep us vigil. Have a peaceful, hopeful day, Julie.

    Gary

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  12. Interesting review. I know that feeling when I leave a movie and everyone I know loves it, but I'm left feeling as if something is missing. It's interesting to think that it may have been intentional in Zero Dark Thirty. Osama Bin Laden may be gone, but terrorism is sadly still thriving.

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    1. The ending really leaves it wide open for different interpretations, and it really didn't hit me until I sat down to write about it. Very sad but true about terrorism. Thanks Tyrean!

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  13. Susan - Then you may want to wait for it to come on TV. I also have trouble sitting still, and always have popcorn to keep me from becoming restless. Thanks so much Susan!

    Gary - The fact that I'm still thinking about it almost a week later means that it had an impact on me. I hope you do have time to see it at some point. I've never been called " eloquent" before, and I really appreciate it Gary. Hope you're feeling well.
    Julie

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  14. I like war films but they need characterisation and even some humour to lighten the heaviness, I realise the seriousness of the subject though. I'd be interested to see this to see what I make of it.

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  15. As Tyrean said, terrorism is still thriving. So, while the head of the snake may have been popped, it still is a huge ass snake. With a lot of heads.
    As for me? I'm just glad Batman kicked the crap out of Bane.
    And the Hulk was on our side.
    I'm shallow that way.

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  16. We'll have to be sure we catch that one on video when it gets that far.

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  17. Nick - That's what made the Tarantino movie Django stand out, because it had humor where you least expected it. I'm looking forward to your Adversity Blogfest Nick!

    Al - Thank goodness we have our superheroes to help us keep our sanity during turbulent times. You're not the least bit shallow Hal, I mean Al.

    Mary - It's definitely worth a look.

    Julie

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  18. I'm stopping by to say hi and Happy New Year after a blogging break.
    I am curious to see this movie but I've heard more negative than positive so far. I wonder if the reason these things were left out is because they were unknown. I would be interested to know how much research was done before the movie was written.

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  19. I'm seeing Zero Dark Thirty this weekend and I have very HIGH HOPES for this being ONE-OF-THE-BEST films of 2012! I know Jessica Chastain (Maya) will give it her all and win gold at the Golden Globes\Oscars. I just hope that I haven't put my hopes too high. We'll see! Thanks for this review, Julie! :)

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  20. Heather - I know extensive research was done in the making of the film. Jessica Chastain told Letterman that they had to rewrite the ending after bin Laden was killed. Happy New Year to you as well Heather!

    Livia - I'm glad that you're going to see it before the Golden Globes. This way you'll have a better idea of what all the hype is about. Let me know what you think. Thanks Livia!

    Julie

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  21. Here's to posting how you feel about a loaded topic...

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  22. Like Heather, I've heard more negative about this movie than positive. Not sure if I want to see it or not. Thanks for sharing your review, Julie. I totally agree that you should be able to develop a multi-dimensional character in 2 1/2 hours! I think all good movies do that.

    Have a good weekend! :)

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  23. Thank you Jill!

    Julie - I do give the film a lot of credit for being so thought provoking. Thanks and hope you have a good weekend too Julie.

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  24. Can't develop a character in 2.5 hours? Many movies manage to do it in 1.5. some do it in the first 15 minutes.

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  25. Julie: I think your review is excellent. For me, the fact that the "movie has already received four Golden Globe nominations, and is sure to receive Oscar nods for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress" says stay home and read a good book. Hollywood rarely gets anything right.

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  26. Hi Julie - it seems the film is raising all kinds of questions - so can understand your feelings - it's not a film I'll be seeing ... but good to read your take on it ..

    cheers Hilary

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  27. Libby - You are absolutely right Libby! The Andy Griffith Show, All In The Family, and the Mary Tyler Moore Show are fine examples of classic sitcoms that could make you laugh and cry in less than thirty minutes. I hope that you've seen some of these in reruns.

    JJ - I wrote this the night before the Oscar nominations came out, and was very surprised that Kathryn Bigelow was not nominated for Best Director though she is in the running for a Golden Globe. I still love watching the Oscars, although I don't always agree with them. Thanks JJ!

    Hilary - It's not for everyone, but I'm glad that I saw it. Thanks Hilary!

    Julie

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    1. It's great to meet you Angelika. Thank YOU!

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  29. i just might have to see this one--thanks for a great review :)

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  30. I'm so glad you mentioned The Artist. Wasn't it great to be IN that story in a media that has undergone such amazing changes since those silent days. It stirred me watch more of the "silents." I thought I'd just take a peek at The It Girl, and then move on, but I found I was really into Lillian Gish's character, so I watched the whole thing. It doesn't take special effects to make an exciting movie.

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  31. I think that's her style actually. That and the fact that the agent's identity is supposed to remain anonymous. I think it's more about the events, more so than even the story, that the director wanted to get across. It does leave a lot open for interpretation, which, as a storyteller, is somewhat unsatisfying. Very thought provoking, Julie!

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  32. Thanks so much Lynn!

    Lee - There's a lot to be said about special effects. Without them, there wouldn't have been the magical Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz. Zero Dark Thirty looked extremely authentic, especially the footage of the night raid. The Artist had it's own unique style, and focused entirely on the characters. Like Carol suggested, ZDT only needed an extra line or two to see what led her into the CIA.

    Nancy - Sounds like you've hit the nail on the head! It's also been referred to as a docudrama which reiterates your point. Though the real CIA agent is still working undercover, I hope that she is still able to take pride in her tremendous accomplishment, and enjoy the movie's success. Thanks for your help Nancy!

    Julie

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  33. I guess I'll see this when it comes out on DVD. I don't know much about it, but lately I've found it difficult to get excited about very many newer movies. There have been a lot of let downs for me.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  34. There's so much politics involved in these big awards shows. A movie with this theme was bound to be up for lots of awards, regardless of the quality - in my opinion. I'm sure I'd agree with you. Of course, character development is important and has been done with great success in much shorter productions.

    xoRobyn

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  35. Lee - I agree that there have been many disappointments this year, but there are always a few surprises along the way.

    Robyn - It still was a quality movie on many levels, though you're right about the theme. Jessica Chastain won the Golden Globe for Best Actress last night, and I was very happy for her. Great point about well-written character development Robyn.

    Julie

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  36. I don't think that movie has made it here to New Zealand yet. I will see it at some point. I like your interpretation at the end, perhaps you have hit the nail on the head.

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  37. I go to the movies once every five years or so...

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  38. Been hearing a lot about this movie. I have to go check it out one of these days, esp. after your review :)


    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  39. Rhonda - Let me know what you think when you finally see it.

    Michelle - Maybe you'll watch it on TV sometime.

    Thanks Nutschell!
    Julie

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  40. I read this with interest, whilst in New York 18 months ago we visited Ground Zero, it was a strange experience yet very moving.

    Thanks for your message, I had the pc doctor in who say all is well with my pc so can't understand why people can't get through except by Alex's blog. I will get in touch with him again and show him your comment as it came over my phone.

    Yvonne.

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    1. Yvonne, It must have been a very emotional experience at Ground Zero.
      Hope the PC doctor is able to solve the problem. Julie

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  41. This is a movie we have been meaning to see. What I read about the heroine was that she needed to remain unknown, and her backstory would have been too revealing.

    Totally agree with you on all points, Julie.

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    1. Susan - It makes sense, but I still like Carol's idea about adding a line or two without giving too much away. Thanks Susan!

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