Sunday, January 6, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty had me pumped from the time that it was first announced. I'm up for anything that Kathryn Bigelow is involved in, and the added bonus of seeing a huge collection of my favorite actors in one movie is also a huge plus. If you have never heard of Kathryn Bigelow, check out The Hurt Locker (Drama), Point Break (Action), or Near Dark (Horror), you'll thank me afterwards. This is a movie that needs very little set up because most people with half a brain know that the movie is about the manhunt for Osama bin Laden, and if you don't know the ending already then you may have to re-evaluate your life.

 A cast consisting of Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke, Chris Pratt, Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler, James Gandolfini, Edgar Ramirez, Mark Duplass, Frank Grillo, and John Barrowman is what sets this movie apart from anything else that I have seen this year. I have been adamant about the fact that I thought Looper got disrespected and was the best movie of the year, but that was before I saw this incredible masterpiece. Each actor plays their respective role perfectly and none of them are over the top and they all come off as real people. That is a huge factor when trying to make a fact based movie. Jessica Chastain is phenomenal as Maya, the main CIA agent in the movie. She is a young CIA agent at the beginning of the movie and you see her mature over the years and how her singular goal of catching bin Laden takes its toll on her as well. This is a person who is willing to do whatever it takes to kill bin Laden, no matter how terrible those things are, and you are always right there rooting for her. It takes a special actress to make you sympathetic of someone you see torturing people.

I also want to take a second and talk about the tour de force performance of Jason Clarke. His character, Dan, is both incredibly menacing and charming all at the same time. He is the viewer's introduction to how far you must go to catch bin Laden. Dan has absolutely no qualms about torturing terrorists in order to get information and you get to see the wide arrange of method he employs to break their resolve. Jason Clarke plays the character with an unprecedented ferocity and his character comes out being very likable. Clarke is a very under appreciated actor and this may be the role that finally puts him into the spotlight. His performance is the second most important in the movie right behind that of Jessica Chastain.

I know it seems like most of this review seems as though it being dedicated to the acting in the movie and that is for a good reason, it is incredible. Some of the other standouts in the movie are Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, and Mark Strong. Edgerton and Pratt are in the roles of two Marines from Seal Team Six, and they each knock it out of the park. Pratt plays the loudmouthed, Justin, and Edgerton plays quiet and reserved, Patrick. They are able to joke around with each other on screen and then turn up the intensity when they go on the raid for bin Laden. This was the first time that I have seen Pratt in a serious role and he proves that he can absolutely juggle between comedy and drama. Mark Strong also makes an appearance as Maya's boss in the United States. Strong is an incredible character actor and is generally used in small roles where he is put in heavy make up or prosthetics. He effortlessly blends into his characters and it is easy to forget that you are watching him act.

The action in this movie is extremely solid in its limited use in the movie. There are several suicide bomber scenes in the movie and they are really tense and you see them coming from a mile away but it never diminishes their effectiveness. You see the London bus bombings and there is just an incredible sense of dread in the air leading up the actual bombings. There are a few other scenes that I don't want to spoil because they are both awesome and heartbreaking. The end sequence of the movie is one of the most perfectly choreographed and tense action scenes that has ever been filmed.

This is a very emotional movie for anyone that lived through 9/11 and its aftermath. I felt a need to see this movie for its entertainment value and educational value as well. It took a neutral stance on its portrayal of the actions of the CIA operatives int he movie and didn't try and force the viewer to be for or against the use of torture to gain information. I am for one in favor of its use, and that might make me a horrible person but you have to do what you have to in those given situations. I am not going to pretend that I can even fathom the decisions that were going through the heads of the operatives in real life, their sole goal was to protect our nation from outside threats and they did everything that they could do to accomplish that goal. I wrote a very heartfelt piece on United 93 and I don't want this review to become that so this is where I am going to close it out.

This is a movie that you absolutely need to see. It was a great piece of filmmaking and showcased some of the best performances of the year. For anyone who lived through 9/11 and has followed the manhunt of bin Laden this is essential viewing. It is playing in a select few theaters and I had to drive a decent distance to go and see it but it was well worth the trip. Just go and see it.