Thursday, March 7, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Or we have nothing funny to add here.

Zero Dark Thirty – 5 out of 5

I guess I should start this review with a disclaimer going beyond my disclaimer explaining my scoring system and begging you not to call me a fag in the comment section. I respect our troops. I may not agree with some actions our troops have been ordered to take like the war in Iraq for example and I may not agree with some of the actions and black eyes that have been given to the military thanks to rogue soldiers who embarrass their country by doing things like take pictures of torture victims while giving the “guns” to the victim’s junk or killing innocents during wartime. I knew a marine who bragged to me that while in Iraq he doused a cat in diesel fuel and lit it on fire because it wanted food—and then he filmed it and thought it was hilarious. That shit is just fucking nuts and showcases psychosis that should not be allowed access to a weapon of any kind.

I can't tell if the gravity of the situation is bringing him down or if he just noticed
that someone is not going to eat their pickle.

That being said, I appreciate the efforts our military has done for this country and all it stands for. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to get all Toby Keith here and I’m not going to start jerking off to the Red, White and Blue but I want it made clear that this review will make some jokes that might be construed as Anti-America or Anti-Military by the flag-wavers who think The Onion is real but, in reality, they are just that: Jokes. The freedom of speech, won by our forces gave me the right to make dick jokes about a movie that is about killing the man responsible for 9/11 (oops, Spoiler Alert!). Okay…on to the review!

Must fight urge to make Paris Hilton sex tape reference but won't fit urge to play
Call of Duty.

Okay, unless you’ve been living under a rock (that is not a pun on the fact bin Laden used to operate from a cave) there was this man named Osama bin Laden and he orchestrated one of the most atrocious terrorist attacks on American soil pretty much ever. Zero Dark Thirty (which, thanks to Google, I learned means thirty minutes after midnight…I’m ready to be a Green Beret now!) tells the story of the ten year manhunt to find the man and capture and/or kill him. In case you were wondering, they killed him ("Gah, Spoiler Alert!" - Oblivious Individual).

Gah!  They sent in an unmake-uped clown in to do the torture.

The film shows the absolute obsession that CIA officer Maya (Jessica Chastain) makes it her duty to track down any lead she can in order to find bin Laden. She oversees torture of al-Qaeda members by a CIA operative who seems to be trained only in torture (Jason Clarke); pulling at every lead she can get her hands on and nearly dies twice from terrorist activities. Her persistence pays off when the CIA comes across a possible compound that could be holding bin Laden. After painstaking convincing, she is able to get the big heads to organize a strike from Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 and the rest is history.

Mark Strong is apparently turning into Steve Carell.

I was very impressed with this film and impressed for a lot of reasons. Not only is the story interesting but the end result was so engaging that I found myself staying up later than I wanted to in order to finish the film because the climax of the movie was so intense that I couldn’t turn away. Originally the film was written about the failed attempt to locate bin Laden but was eventually re-written when they were able to find the man and remove him from this mortal coil. Which makes you wonder if the final half hour of the movie would have turned out as intense as it did…the answer is, of course, no because the end is about eliminating bin Laden (it’s not a spoiler because we all know that’s what happened in real life) and the mission to accomplish that.  If he remained at large today how would the movie have ended?  With the CIA saying, "Well, we still don't know where he is.  Wanna play some Rock Band?"
"Rock Band?  Bitch, don't even.  Halo 4 is out.  Why not a reference to that?"

According to CIA Director Michael Morell, he has stated that some of the film is not historically accurate but I never go into a movie that is based on history expecting it to be real. Look at Argo; great movie but a lot of it is just made up. However, Morell is stating that the inaccurate part stems from the torture scenes (or as it is ridiculously referred to as “enhanced interrogation techniques”) and the idea that our government was relying on water boarding and other physical and emotional abuse to get information. A statement that asinine can only be replied to with a condescending smile.

The torture scenes ended up causing some controversy (even by members of the Academy who publically distanced themselves from the film). However, while watching the film, I didn’t see director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) glorifying these awful acts against human decency. Rather I saw it as a horrible projection of tactics that were taken that shouldn’t have occurred. The torture scenes are hard to watch because they look real and, because of how hard it was to watch, I don’t believe they were done to glorify torture. Watch 24 and the delight Jack Bauer got from torture. That glorified torture—I mean, was the scene where Jack tortured the waitress because they had Coke and not Pepsi products really necessary?

With a strong story and Kathryn Bigelow behind the camera, the movie was pretty much engineered to be an intense film but the amazing cast only added to it. Mark Strong is awesome as Jessica Chastain’s superior, Jason Clarke is almost frightening with his character’s calm approach to torture and the rest of the cast that includes too many people to list (but include James Galdolfini, Joel Edgerton, and even Chris Pratt) were all amazing.

Shit, even Capt. Jack Harkness was in this movie...and the Yellow-Eyed
Demon is sitting next to him.

Have you heard of The Sheva Bowl?
 It was even stranger to see two men who I only know from comedies (Chris Pratt from Parks & Rec and Mark Duplass from The League) star in this heavy film. While both men are extremely talented in the humorous works I know them for I was amazingly surprised to see how well each man acted in this über-serious movie. Especially Chris Pratt, who plays a member of S.E.A.L. Team 6 and shows that he has what it takes for a more diverse career…and he’s already showing that as he’s going to play Star-Lord in Marvel’s Guardian of the Galaxy film coming out.

"Can we hurry this up?  I have a galaxy to protect...or guard."

But nothing compares to Chastain’s performance as Maya.

Just look at her look at that fence...LOOK AT HER!!!

The film’s running length is a little over 2 and a half hours and Kathryn Bigelow compacts and encapsulates the span of the 10 year search for bin Laden perfectly. The film jumps from year to year and could, on paper, look disastrous for the plot but with the help of Chastain’s performance, these jumps in time move smoothly. Chastain, with each scene and each moment that shows a passage of time, she becomes more obsessed and looks more exhausted and exasperated with the seemingly impossible search. Chastain literally looks weary and torn apart by this manhunt and her performance really makes it look disturbingly real and makes the movie even more dramatic.

She also has the ability to change hair color at will.

However, above all else the one thing I really enjoyed about this movie was the way the film (at least from my perspective) refrained from taking any political stance—left or right. It could be argued that the film had a slight Conservative bias due to the fact that it could be argued that the film has a “pro-torture” stance and Conservatives are stereotyped as ready and willing to torture “dem damn, towel-heads” (an actual quote from the man I told you about who killed the cat) in order to get the information that will “protect our freedoms and rights and guns” (another actual quote. He’s not the brightest man in the world) but, like I said, I didn’t see the torture scenes as glorious or see them painting a very pretty picture of the real actions that occurred.

Chastain also has the ability to give James Gandolfini more hair.

Add to the fact that the President was kept out of the film and the movie’s story focused entirely on the CIA and Maya’s obsession to find bin Laden and it, ultimately for me, gave the film a bi-partisan feel. I also really appreciated the fact that they didn’t glorify the death of bin Laden (it’s not a Spoiler, for crying out loud. We knew he died in it before it came out).

It could have been easy to make a movie that was just dripping in NASCAR patriotism in order to get Fox News viewers to fill the theater. The film could have been an hour and a half of a effeminate bin Laden wiping his ass on the American flag before Toby Keith, Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly bust in, all with American flag capes, and proceed to spend twenty minutes shooting bin Laden in the face before Bush walks in and tea bags the corpse. Then all members of the Fox News Nation would walk out and say, “That was awesome…and totally 100% accurate.”

So, Michael had the troubls on the island and now he's helping with the hunt? 

The one thing I found strange when it was announced that bin Laden was killed was the fact people were celebrating it…and Toby Keith was probably wearing himself exhausted with the amount of masturbating he was doing in-between writing songs to profit off it like he did for 9/11. Don’t get me wrong; bin Laden was a terrible person. He made Emperor Palpatine look like a distinguished and polite gentleman. He was the personification of all the villains in every work of fiction you can think of and turned up to 11. But as evil as he was, I couldn’t bring myself to cheer on his death. I was glad that justice was done and he paid for his crimes but I won’t pop some champagne for a person dying; no matter how atrocious they are. That’s why I’m glad the film didn’t make a spectacle of the hunt and resulting death of the man. The film didn’t resort to a sensationalize telling of the story (no Chris Pratt or Joel Edgerton running in slow-mo from a fireball created by bin Laden) but rather looked at it like a somber truth. And in doing so, made the film feel even more real and gritty.

"We just killed bin Laden!  Don't leave me hanging...okay, you left me hangin
even after I politely asked you not to."

By the time the credits rolled on Zero Dark Thirty, I sat quietly for a moment and let the film really set in. The movie was dramatic and very intense. Some parts were hard to sit through but the overall feeling I got was the movie was engaging and interesting on a level so few movies are able to achieve. Bigelow’s realistic look combined with intense acting from an amazing collective of actors made the film feel more like a really well filmed documentary than a dramatized historical picture.


  1. "Zero Dark Thirty" shows guts in taking on loaded subject matter and filmmaking confidence and skill in not telling us how we should feel about it.

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  2. It truly amazes me just how talented Jessica Chastain really is.


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