Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty has been so massively hyped leading up to its release here in the UK. Five star reviews, Oscar and Golden Globe buzz, it’s even topped the list of some critics best movies of 2012.
So obviously I had to go and see it, and… it left me slightly underwhelmed.
That’s not to say Zero Dark Thirty is a bad movie, far from it. It is a good film. With several strong performances throughout, a very matter-of-fact and largely apolitical retelling of the events that sparked the hunt for Bin Laden, some tense scenes and occasional bursts of sudden violence - this is a well-put together and engrossing film.
But film of the year? Am I missing something?
Undoubtedly the real story behind ZDT is far more interesting, both in terms of the actual events that the film is based on, but also what transpired during the making of the film.
Firstly, the real events – the film is presented largely in a slow burning and investigation-heavy manner, with the drama often downplayed and grounded, and much of the action scenes being portrayed realistically – which begs the question: why not just make it a documentary? Films like The Imposter can attest to reenactments being merged seamlessly in with the documentary format to great dramatic effect, if they so wished to present it in that way.
Admittedly the ending raid on the compound is a tense affair, even though we already know of the eventual outcome. It’s just a shame we need to crawl along for most of the movie seeing talent like Mark Strong do nothing but shout and/or look exasperated until we finally get to that point.
Secondly, the fact that Kathryn Bigelow was already making the film (formally about the fruitless search for Bin Laden) when the events that transpired at his compound made headlines around the world - which then drastically altered the shape of the film into the finished product - is in itself so intriguing. Maybe they should have made that film instead: the film about the making of a film about the hunt for Bin Laden.
So perhaps the film falls victim to its own hype. With all the raving about Jessica Chastain’s performance as the lead character ‘Maya’ (she’s up for an Oscar), I couldn't help but scrutinize her performance closely during the film. Yeah, she’s pretty good in it, but for every well wrought and subtle scene of her wordlessly conveying her troubled state or mind, parts where she is seen tittering with her female friend and shouting at her bosses like a lunatic seem strangely forced. Again, this could just be a case of too much hype before watching the film, leading to an over scrutinizing of her acting.
Either way, I guess it's a good thing that they made this film about the events surrounding the killing of Osama Bin Laden, rather than some cheesy generic action flick. We may see those yet to come in the future, but at least Zero Dark Thirty was the 'serious one' that came first.
At the end of the day, it is a good film, but as a movie experience? Sorry, but I preferred The Hurt Locker…
31 Jan 2013