I’m gonna take slack for this one because this is an Oscar contender by an Oscar-winning director. As I’m sure you’re aware, this movie is about the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden in May of 2011 and the events that led to the CIA finding his camp. MY take is this…if you watch “Homeland” (which I do regularly and I’m a HUGE fan) or have seen director Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar winner, “The Hurt Locker,” then, I have to be honest, you’ve seen all of this kind of military drama already and you’ve seen it done better.
Maya (Jessica Chastain) is a CIA operative hired to lead a task force chosen to find Osama bin Laden. When we first meet her, she is in an interrogation room with a captured prisoner and with another man who is in charge of “breaking” him (Jason Clarke, who has the best role in the movie). After the initial shock of the torture scenes wear off (there are a couple of them and, quite honestly, they aren’t as graphic as some would have you believe), the movie kind of stalls as Maya and her team are sent into several situations where they are hoping that eventually bin Laden will reveal himself. Eventually, after years of trying, they trace a phone signal, track a man they hope is associated with bin Laden and then go on their gut feelings that they have found his hidden lair.
This is all “based” on a true story that has been given much media attention to the details involved. I have to imagine that, much like Oscar-nominated “Argo,” the producers and director have taken liberties with what REALLY happened in these historic events to make the movies a little more dramatic than they might have been in reality. In reality, these events took place over long amounts of time. In the film world, they take a matter of a couple of hours. The movie studios HAVE to take some liberties with the truth otherwise they couldn’t make a movie that people could sit through! That being said, I didn’t find “Zero Dark Thirty” to be all that exciting OR dramatic. Unlike “Argo,” “Zero Dark Thirty” kind of found me simply waiting for the end when the U.S. Seals raid the compound and kill bin Laden. Other than that, I didn’t really care all that much for any of the characters, the script is nowhere NEAR the writing of “Homeland” as far as drama is concerned and I really don’t understand why there is so much excitement about this film. Truthfully, it might be the biggest disappointment of the Oscar season for me. I was anticipating a much better movie than I got and to be perfectly honest, I thought Jessica Chastain was a bit of a bore in this film. Where “Homeland” has Carrie (played amazingly by Claire Daines), an agent with a bi-polar disorder that keeps her interesting, Chastain’s Maya is simply driven to find bin Laden and except for a couple of scenes where she finally gets some decent lines to work with, she spends most of the film looking like she doesn’t know what to say. It’s an odd role for Chastain, who has shown that she has some pretty decent acting chops (go see her in “Take Shelter” or “The Help” if you want to see her at her best). She doesn’t really shine in this movie and I’m surprised she’s up for an Oscar for it.
Obviously, everyone will have their opinion on this film. If you like a little more deliberate military drama, maybe this is for you. However, after seeing “The Hurt Locker,” I can definitely say that it is MUCH better than this film and deserved the accolades it received. This movie? Eh…not so much.
Overall Rating: C