Thursday, December 26, 2013

PCP on DVD - Zero Dark Thirty

Twelve years ago was the darkest day in American history since Pearl Harbor, with the tragic events of 9/11. A war in Afghanistan (that still is going on) was the direct result, as well as a massive manhunt for the man responsible for 9/11, Osama Bin Laden, a manhunt that ended in his death in 2011. Zero Dark Thirty is the film that chronicles that manhunt, and as I am a student of history, I knew I had to see this film.

Zero Dark Thirty - 2012, rated R.  My rating: 8.5 out of 10.

The film opens in probably the most horrifying way possible. It is a pure black screen, no titles or credits, and all you hear is audio. It doesn't take long for it to sink in what exactly you are hearing: real audio recordings of emergency calls from within the World Trade Center, on 9/11. Hearing the audio on a black screen is actually worse than seeing images of the terror attacks, because it forces your brain to both populate those images into your head (because they're seared into all of our memories), but also it puts you into the fear and terror the victims of the 9/11 attacks went through in a way that just showing those familiar images does not.

From there we are introduced to Maya (Jessica Chastain) who is a young CIA analyst witnessing with disgust her first "enhanced interrogation" by Dan (Jason Clarke). A good chunk of the start of the film focuses on torture sequences of various detainees captured in the early days of the War on Terror. Some of the criticism of this film stems from the fact that it almost embraces the torture (or shows it to be effective) but really that isn't the point of showing it. The point the film makes is that the torture is not effective, as Maya gets far better and more accurate intel from other sources than those that are tortured; and also the film uses the torture sequences to show how Maya is becoming more and more hardened to the process and willing to go to ever greater lengths in her hunt for Bin Laden, even at the cost of her own moral center.

These torture scenes ruined the film for my wife, and nearly ruined it for me as well. She stopped watching, leaving me to finish the film on my own. I am glad I stuck with it. The film itself is technically excellent in its execution, slowly ratcheting up the tension as the hunt goes on and on. It is beautifully shot and directed by Kathryn Bigelow (the Oscar winning director behind the Iraq War film The Hurt Locker), Interspersed with the excellent acting sequences from a great cast of talented actors (James Gandolfini, Kyle Chandler, Harold Perrineau, Mark Strong, Joel Edgerton, & Chris Pratt, amongst many outstanding performances in this film) are brief bursts of action, usually additional terror attacks, all of which happened in real life. These action sequences help ratchet up the tension even more. Ultimately, the film culminates in the raid on Bin Laden's Pakistan compound, which was apparently shot to take place in real time with the actual duration of the raid. The raid was surprisingly slower and more methodical than I had imagined. If nothing else, the film is worth watching for this sequence alone, just so you understand just what went down on that May night a year and a half ago.

Overall, Zero Dark Thirty is a film that I would strongly encourage you to watch, although it definitely is not for all audiences. It absolutely is not a date movie. But guys, if your wife is not home one day, pop this one in and check it out. Hopefully you won't be disappointed!

No comments:

Post a Comment