January 01, 2013

MOVIES: Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012)

What surprises me most about this movie is how little I have to say about it beyond the fact that it bored me throughout.

The storytelling is murky, especially in the first 30-45 minutes, when Maya (Jessica Chastain) and her fellow CIA agents are gathering information from various prisoners. The Middle Eastern men who are being questioned are all styled and made up to look vaguely alike, and the movie doesn't make much effort to identify them or distinguish them from one another, so it's never quite clear which information came from who, or how any particular piece of information was obtained.

That murkiness makes it difficult for me to address the controversy surrounding the movie about whether it says torture was effective; if I can't tell which information was obtained that way, or which information was useful in the long run, then I've got no way of knowing what the movie's trying to say on the subject.

Chastain's performance consists of lots of furrowed brows and "listen to me, dammit" confrontations with higher-ups who think she's following red herrings.The final sequence depicting the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound is effective, but it's essentially just another glossy Hollywood action scene in which the good guys have perfect aim and the bad guys can't shoot straight.

I'm left baffled by the critical enthusiasm for the movie, which I found lifeless and inert.

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