sat 20/07/2024

DVD: Zero Dark Thirty | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Zero Dark Thirty

DVD: Zero Dark Thirty

Oscar-tipped War on Terror epic may add up to less than it seems

Can Hollywood really tell us the truth about the CIA?

Despite its five Oscar nominations, in the end Zero Dark Thirty only won for Best Sound Editing, with the Academy showing a distinct preference for the more "thrillerised" version of US foreign affairs displayed in Ben Affleck's hugely entertaining Argo. Impressive in many respects, not least its unflashy - even, frankly, tedious - depiction of the nitpicking drudgery of intelligence work and the near-impossibility of achieving definitive answers, Zero Dark...

eventually fails to be one thing or the other.

Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have made claims for its partly-documentary content, but rolling up real-life events like 7/7 in London and other overseas terrorist attacks inside an invented framework doesn't really count as "documentary". Besides, documentaries don't have movie stars like Jessica Chastain and Joel Edgerton in them. On the other hand, although it has action sequences and plenty of authentic military hardware, Zero Dark... is too pedantic and methodical to be a genuine action thriller. Even the climactic sequence of the Navy SEAL raid to kill Osama Bin Laden in Abbotabad looks designed to highlight the pitfalls and niggling setbacks rather than to generate anything as vulgar as excitement. 

If we're going to have movie stars, we need some characterisation and interaction for them to bite on, so it's no great wonder that Chastain was passed over for Best Actress. Portraying the cypher-like Maya, an obsessive CIA analyst whose only job in 13 years at the Agency has been to hunt Bin Laden, Chastain plays a woman with no discernible inner life, no lovers, outside interests or friends. Well, maybe one, but she gets blown up. Maya rarely smiles, doesn't make jokes and doesn't see anything objectionable in waterboarding and "enhanced interrogation" if it will help to protect the Homeland. The film was criticised for its seemingly pro-torture stance, and certainly seems to tacitly support the notion that any means used by our covert heroes are justified by results.

It's something of a curiosity, all things considered. Perhaps it's a reminder that one should never confuse Hollywood movies with real life, while its split personality may be its most coherent comment on the War on Terror.

Watch the trailer for Zero Dark Thirty

Chastain plays a woman with no discernible inner life, no lovers, outside interests or friends


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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