Zero Dark Thirty

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Re: Zero Dark Thirty - Reviews

Postby Sabin » Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:08 pm

David Poland saw it and is ecstatic about it. He's a monkey little cheerleader but it's something to get worked up about, I think.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: Zero Dark Thirty - Reviews

Postby mlrg » Mon Nov 26, 2012 6:16 am

Maybe this should go into the Lez Misarables thread.... (and I'm 100% on Italiano's take on this)

I really liked The Hurt Locker and have great expectations for ZD30.

Early reviews are almost all raves and I think we will have a clear showdown for Best actress between Chastain and Lawrence.

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Re: Zero Dark Thirty - Reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Nov 26, 2012 5:05 am

anonymous1980 wrote:This is going way off topic but to answer some concerns raised about Les Miserables, here's a review of sorts from someone who knew nothing of Les Miz.

Of course that's only one person but still...

Yes, but honestly... Ok, one may not know much about the musical, but how on Earth can someone even vaguely into movies - and, theorically, into arts - say something like: From this day forward, when I hear the name Jean Valjean, I will know who that is. ??? If those who are enthusiastic about Les Miserables all share this kind of ignorance, if this movie is directed at THEM, it will certainly be a box-office hit and a big Oscar winner, but it will still be dreadful. Dreadful.

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Re: Zero Dark Thirty - Reviews

Postby anonymous1980 » Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:29 am

This is going way off topic but to answer some concerns raised about Les Miserables, here's a review of sorts from someone who knew nothing of Les Miz.

Of course that's only one person but still...

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Re: Zero Dark Thirty - Reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:19 am

The Original BJ wrote:(Nathaniel Rogers was probably always going to be predisposed toward it, but his level of ecstasy is noteworthy nonetheless)

It's worth remembering that Nathaniel had Nine as a likely best picture nominee AFTER he'd seen the movie. I agree, that his level of enthusiasm -- and that of many others -- suggest the film is definitely in the race. But I remain a bit dubious about people who went in expecting the film to be "awesome"/the best picture favorite, and emerged with that same take. Especially since the screening he and most of the others attended was apparently packed with a Broadway crowd similarly predisposed. (I happened to see Chicago back in '02 at a screening like that. People applauded like mad when Chita Rivera appeared on-screen -- a moment I'm guessing was not replicated at mukltiplexes across America)

I had meant myself to mention the abundance of former winners among the potential directing nominees. In addition to what you suggest (the difficulty the up and coming have in getting backing for serious films), I'd also note the directors' branch has a long-standing history of renominating former nominees/winners. An excellent long-term wager is to bet that, each year, the directing list will feature at least one previous nominee and at least one director not born in the US.

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Re: Zero Dark Thirty - Reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Sun Nov 25, 2012 7:56 pm

Another reason to lament the expansion...

At this point, of the released films, you'd have to say Argo, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Life of Pi all looked VERY STRONG for Best Picture.

But in a slate of five Best Picture nominees, couldn't one of them conceivably be vulnerable? Assuming Zero Dark Thirty delivers as these reviews suggest, and Les Mis lives up to the hype (Nathaniel Rogers was probably always going to be predisposed toward it, but his level of ecstasy is noteworthy nonetheless), that would be too many very solid candidates for lineup. And that's even before a verdict has been leveled on The Hobbit, which, if reviews are any good, would make it a strong contender as well. Under the old rules, we could have had a real dog fight for those Best Picture spots; today, it's hard to imagine any of them missing in an expanded roster.

It's also worth noting the number of big-ticket entries this year from directors who already have Oscars -- Hooper, Bigelow, Lee, Jackson, Spielberg, throw in Affleck when you remember his screenwriting prize. Of the top candidates, only Russell isn't a winner, though he is a past nominee (as are outliers Anderson and Haneke, at least in Foreign Film.) It's highly possible we get a Director lineup this year full of past winners, with no one receiving their first nomination. I have to think that says something about how difficult it is in this era for younger directors to break through with serious movies, as more and more dramas have to be sold as prestige pictures from prestige directors.

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Re: Zero Dark Thirty - Reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Nov 25, 2012 5:58 pm

So, with this; with Argo, Lincoln and Life of Pi all scoring solidly with both critics and audiences; with Silver Linings Playbook well-reviewed and looking set for a lengthy mid-level playoff off; with the initial reactions to Les Miz maybe not entirely trustworthy (I'll wait to hear from some people who don't know the cast album by heart) but clearly indicating it's no Nine...with all that, can we say this year is the anti-2009 -- the year when almost all the year-end heavyweights came through rather than collapsed?

Throw in films like The Master/Beasts of the Southern Wild/The Sessions/maybe Amour to come, which are not going to end in that high-commercial realm, but have done well enough to contend in acting/writing/lone director...

If we had this field four years ago, would anyone but bloggers have given much of a damn about The Dark Knight? And would the best picture expansion to ten have ever happened?

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Re: Zero Dark Thirty - Reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Nov 25, 2012 5:51 pm


Zero Dark Thirty
Pic rivets for most of its running time by focusing on how one female CIA agent with a far-out hunch was instrumental in bringing down America's most wanted fugitive.
By Peter Debruge
'Zero Dark Thirty'

Running a dense two hours thirty, before credits, "Zero Dark Thirty" reunites director Kathryn Bigelow with reporter-turned-scenarist Mark Boal in re-creating the hunt for Osama bin Laden, rejecting nearly every cliche one might expect from a Hollywood treatment of the subject. Wildly more ambitious than "The Hurt Locker," yet nowhere near so tripwire-tense, this procedure-driven, decade-spanning docudrama nevertheless rivets for most of its running time by focusing on how one female CIA agent with a far-out hunch was instrumental in bringing down America's most wanted fugitive. Spinning the pic as a thriller, Sony could beat the 9/11-movie curse when the Dec. 19 limited release goes wide in January.
Tactically held for release until after the presidential election had played out, "Zero Dark Thirty" arrives shrouded in nearly as much mystery as bin Laden's whereabouts before news broke that a team of Navy SEALs had successfully terminated his life on May 2, 2011. The title, military-speak for half past midnight, refers to the Al Qaeda leader's time of death, theoretically promising a flashy firsthand account of the raid itself. Why then does it star Jessica Chastain, skeptics wondered, not realizing that Bigelow and Boal had reduced the spectacular assault on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, to the last half-hour in order to dedicate the rest to making history.

By forcing partisan politics into the wings (President George W. Bush goes entirely unseen, while auds' only glimpse of President Obama is during a 2008 campaign interview), the duo effectively give gender politics the whole stage: "Zero Dark Thirty" presents the highest-profile U.S. military success of our lifetime as the work of a single woman, "Maya," inspired by a real CIA analyst Boal discovered during his research and presented here as the only government official convinced that bin Laden wasn't "hiding in some cave" (Bush's words), but somewhere she could find him.

This being Hollywood, none but the biz's most stunning new star will do for such a task, though Chastain -- who aced no fewer than six supporting roles the previous year -- has the chops to embody the pic's iron-nerved protag, holding her own in the testosterone-thick world of CIA black sites and top-level Washington boardrooms. She first appears as witness to a military interrogation in which her colleague resorts to extreme measures to force information from an Al Qaeda money handler (Reda Kateb).

Compared with her wild-eyed cowboy of a colleague, Dan (Jason Clarke), Maya's body language suggests a little girl, clearly uncomfortable with the waterboarding and sexual humiliation that were common practice in the morally hazy rendition era. When Dan leaves the room for a moment, the desperate prisoner tries appealing to her humanity. She wavers for only a moment before firing back, "You can help yourself by being truthful."

Had this role been written for a man, whichever actor had filled it would have had thousands of prior performances to draw from in shaping his own. Chastain has almost zero. The closest model available is Jodie Foster's clenched-jaw turn in "The Silence of the Lambs," though Chastain plays Maya as the polar opposite of Clarice Starling: fragile on the outside, Kevlar-tough beneath the skin. After narrowly surviving one terrorist attack and seeing another promising lead literally blow up in a female colleague's face, Maya grits her teeth and swears, "I'm gonna smoke everybody involved in this op, and then I'm going to kill bin Laden."

Like Bigelow herself, Maya realizes that actions -- or action movies, in the director's case -- are the surest way to combat a tradition in which society doesn't believe women to be capable of getting the job done, and "Zero Dark Thirty" follows the character through every significant step along her 10-year journey to hold bin Laden accountable for 9/11. The film opens with audio of a terrified victim of the World Trade Center attack playing over a blackened screen and uses the emotional power that clip dredges up to fuel everything that follows.

The result is neither particularly entertaining nor especially artful, as the filmmakers take a lean, "All the President's Men"-style approach to dramatizing an investigation that took nearly a decade to bear fruit. But Boal has clearly constructed this as a more journalistic alternative to a generic gung-ho approach. The script's blood runs thick with observational detail and military jargon, skipping forward years at a time between scenes to focus on one of two types of incident.

The first concerns the slow but steady progress in Maya's investigation, which hinges on her conviction that any clues they can discover about bin Laden's courier will eventually lead them back to UBL himself (the military acronym for bin Laden). The second type involves an ongoing series of terrorist attacks that continue to claim lives as long as bin Laden goes free (never mind that they will not stop once he's dead). Bigelow keeps her audience on its toes by alternating between the two, allowing virtually no room for subplots or superfluous character baggage beyond what's needed for the task at hand.

With its handheld camerawork, naturalistic lighting and dialogue-drowning sound design (especially heavy on ambient helicopters), the film reflects the latest fashion in cinematic realism, compromised only slightly by the bare-minimum mood setting from Alexandre Desplat's Middle East-inflected score. Chastain's presence reminds us we're watching a movie, and yet, this slight degree of self-consciousness serves to reinforce the point that it's a woman pushing the process forward.

Maya may not be made of the same stuff as her male colleagues, but that's essential to the operation's success. While they equivocate and refuse to take action, she sticks to her guns and keeps track of the bureaucratic delays by counting the days in dry-erase marker on her superior's office window.

Finally, when the off-camera Obama gives her mission the green light, Maya stares down a pair of cocky Navy SEALs (Chris Pratt and Joel Edgerton) and tells them in no uncertain terms that she has no patience for their macho B.S. Only then does Bigelow offer auds what they paid to see: a re-construction of the raid on bin Laden's compound. Virtuoso as the sequence is to behold, it lacks both the detail of Matt Bissonnette's bestselling insider memoir "No Easy Day" and the visceral immediacy of this year's earlier SEAL-supported indie, "Act of Valor," as well as the satisfaction (also denied by the U.S. government) of seeing the dead bin Laden's face.

Dramatically speaking, the raid feels almost anti-climactic -- an epilogue to a personal crusade that ends the moment Maya is taken seriously. Still, considering how seldom female storytellers have been given a chance to operate on this scale, it's fair to let Bigelow overturn our narrative expectations to some degree. The ultra-professional result may be easier to respect than enjoy, but there's no denying its power, both as a credible reimagining of what went down and a welcome example of distaff resolve prevailing in an arena traditionally dominated by men.

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Zero Dark Thirty

Postby Reza » Sun Nov 25, 2012 11:09 am

Zero Dark Thirty: Film Review
12:02 AM PST 11/25/2012 by Todd McCarthy - The Hollywood Reporter
The Bottom Line
The story of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden builds relentlessly to a powerful end result.

Kathryn Bigelow's and Mark Boal's "Hurt Locker" followup tells the story of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and stars Jessica Chastain and Jason Clarke.

Whether you call it well informed speculative history, docu-drama recreation or very stripped down suspense filmmaking, Zero Dark Thirty matches form and content to pretty terrific ends. A long-arc account of the search for Osama Bin Laden seen from the perspective of an almost insanely focused female CIA officer who never gives up the hunt until the prey ends up in a body bag, Kathryn Bigelow's and Mark Boal's heavily researched successor to The Hurt Locker will be tough for some viewers to take, not only for its early scenes of torture, including water boarding, but due to its denial of conventional emotionalism and non-gung ho approach to cathartic revenge-taking. Films touching on 9/11, such as United 93, World Trade Center, and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, have proven commercially toxic, and while this one has a “happy” ending, its rigorous, unsparing approach will inspire genuine enthusiasm among the serious, hardcore film crowd more than with the wider public.

Even though it runs more than two-and-a-half hours, Zero Dark Thirty is so pared to essentials that even politics are eliminated; there's essentially no Bush or Cheney, no Iraq War, no Obama announcing the success of the May 2, 2011 raid on Bin Laden's in-plain-sight Pakistani compound. Similarly absent is any personal life for the single-minded heroine; when it's suggested at one point that she might want to have a fling, she colorfully replies that she's not a girl who does that sort of thing. The film does question whether she gives up some of her humanity to so selflessly dedicate herself to this sole professional aim, but seems to answer that, for some, this is what represents the essence of life; everything else is preparation and waiting.

Its military jargon title referring to a state of darkness as well as to the time of 12:30 a.m., Zero Dark Thirty opens with 90 seconds or so of black screen accompanied by a soundtrack collage of emergency phone calls from people trapped in the Twin Towers; no need for the familiar visuals here. Cut to two years later, when a captured nephew of Osama Bin Laden undergoes a prolonged series of brutal CIA interrogations that involve beatings, waterboarding, being bound by a dog collar and ropes and getting locked in a small wooden box. It's not the most inviting way to usher a viewer into a movie.

Then again, the hunt for Bin Laden was no picnic either but, rather, an enormously frustrating endeavor that untold amounts of money, manpower and strategic thinking couldn't bring to a successful close for nearly a decade. The man who had engineered the deaths of some 4000 people became a phantom, protected by forbidding geography, loyal followers and an already legendary aura.

For a while, as the film hopscotches through the years, Boal's script appears to be structured journalistically around a series of greatest terrorist hits, so to speak; we witness the deadly outrages of a 2004 attack in Saudi Arabia, the 2005 bus and tube bombing in London, the 2008 attack on the Karachi Marriott and, the following year, a shocking breach at a secured CIA base in Afghanistan.

Connecting the dots, however, is the dogged presence of Maya (Jessica Chastain), a young, flame-haired CIA officer who barely flinches when she first witnesses torture, is described as “a killer” by a colleague and, after a close call, allows that, “I believe I was spared so I could finish the job.” Boal, who dug as deeply into the classified aspects of the case as possible but seems to have been more committed to protecting the identities of those involved than even some participants have been, has said that there really is a “Maya,” although details have been fudged and altered to prevent identification.

Given no backstory, links to the world outside the CIA or any interest in smalltalk or other subjects, Maya occasionally has a drink to unwind but otherwise seems entirely incapable of shutting down her laser-like focus of her obsession. She becomes tolerably friendly with a gregarious, chatty female colleague (the ever-wonderful Jennifer Ehle) but most of the time is the only female in the room; she knows when to hold her tongue and her frustrations are legion, but she also finds her moments to assert herself and speak out to superiors when she suspects her contributions are being ignored, due either to her rank or because she's a woman.

Much as she did with the equally tightly wound protagonist of The Hurt Locker, Bigelow sends Maya through a mine field, this time consisting of bureaucratic trip-wires as well as potentially fatal traps. The director also successfully creates a double-clad environment that is both eerie and threatening, that of the supposedly safe and protected enclaves of the CIA that exist within the larger context of the Muslim world. From very early on, Maya seizes on the idea that the way to eventually track down Bin Laden is to identify and follow his couriers, as they will inevitably one day reveal where the Al-Qaeda leader is hiding.
As we know, she's right, but it takes years for the tactic to pay off. Even once she and her cohorts track down the long-elusive Abu Ahmad, following his vehicle through the chaotic streets of Rawalpindi is a nightmare. But after a succession of road blocks, setbacks and dead ends, Maya finally convinces herself that Bin Laden is holed up in the house in Abbottabad, whereupon her convictions ascend to ladder of command to the point where the CIA director (James Gandolfini) braces himself to enter the Oval Office and recommend a stealth raid to the president.

Bigelow and Boal play a long game, moving from the brutal opening through impressively detailed but not always compelling vignettes of the CIA at work to interludes in which Maya's ferocious dedication begins to possibly play dividends and finally to the climactic forty minutes, which lay out with extraordinary detail and precision the almost improbably successful operation that begins at Area 51 in Nevada, where we first see the amazing stealth helicopters ideally designed for such a mission, and ends with Maya identifying the body that's brought back.

In between is an exceptionally riveting sequence done with no sense of rah-rah patriotic fervor but, rather, tremendous appreciation for the nervy way top professionals carry off a very risky job of work; Howard Hawks would have been impressed. Slipping low through mountain passes in darkness from Afghanistan to Pakistan with rotor noise muffled by special equipment, the two choppers drop off their Navy SEALs, one then crashes in the yard but, remarkably, the noise seems not to arouse any locals just yet.

The men, all wearing helmets that bizarrely feature four night vision lenses protruding from the front, proceed into the sealed up house, breaking down doors and exploding locks as they go. Instead of rushing the place, as per usual cinematic practice, they move slowly and cautiously, room by room, killing the messenger, among others, and encountering several women and many children as they go. The tall man remains elusive but there are still more doors to open. Still, with each minute, the danger of exposure and failure increases—locals from the neighborhood are beginning to head toward the house—and they still haven't found their prize. Until, finally, they do.

Because of the black-and-green, video-like quality of the night vision imagery, these momentous events possess the pictorial quality of low-budget Blair Witch/Paranormal Activity thrillers, which merely contributes further to their weirdness. And because of the deliberate pace at which the men make their way through the house, an unsettling airlessness sets in, a feeling of being suspended in time that's unlike any equivalent climactic action sequence that comes to mind.

But quite apart from its historical significance, at least the scene is here to provide a welcome catharsis, as at one time would not have been the case. The filmmakers initially embarked on this project before the Bin Laden raid took place, which would obviously have resulted in an entirely different sort of film, dramatically and philosophically; without a resolution, it could hardly have helped from being an existential tale of quite substantial dimensions.

As it has emerged instead, it could well be the most impressive film Bigelow has made, as well as possibly her most personal, as one keenly feels the drive of the filmmaker channeled through the intensity of Maya's character. The film's power steadily and relentlessly builds over its long course, to a point that is terrifically imposing and unshakable.

Chastain carries the film in a way she's never been asked to do before. Denied the opportunity to provide psychological and emotional details for Maya, she nonetheless creates a character that proves indelible and deeply felt. The entire cast works in a realistic vein to fine effect.
Similarly, all the technical contributions are put at the service of full verisimilitude. Locations in Jordan and India fill in beautifully for Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

Opens: December 19 (limited), January 11 (wide) (Sony)
Production: Columbia Pictures, Annapurna Pictures, First Light, Mark Boal Productions
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Ehle, Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler, Edgar Ramirez, James Gandolfini, Chris Pratt, Callan Mulvey, Harold Perrineau, Stephen Dillane
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Screenwriter: Mark Boal
Producers: Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, Megan Ellison
Executive producers: Colin Wilson, Greg Shapiro, Ted Schipper
Director of photography: Greig Fraser
Production designer: Jeremy Hindle
Costume designer: George L. Little
Editors: Dylan Tichenor, William Goldenberg
Music: Alexandre Desplat
R rating, 157 minutes

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