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Zero Dark Thirty

I keep calling it “Homeland – The Movie”, and most people I know who watched the Homeland tv show immediately know what film I am talking about. A slightly overambitious, yet brilliant CIA investigator has set her mind on figuring out how to track down Bin Laden, and despite her theories being questioned by all the ranks, she manages by willpower and luck to put together the pieces of a puzzle that points to a place in Abottabad we all know about today. Jessica Chastain and her CIA buddy and fierce CIA interrogation procedures expert Jason Clarke make this film work. They convey the mix of work routine, diligence, necessary level of ruthlessness and equally necessary level of stepping outside the box and managing to cast a fresh look at the puzzle to get it solved.

This is far from a perfect script, there are jumps and cuts in logic that could have been elaborated, it is not even clear whether Chastain’s Maya is really a maniacal bounty hunter or just doing her job, preferring catching the suspected villain rather than letting him run. I see both strains in her character, and that makes that character more interesting. In terms of the film’s narration, it is however not always clear why we are following her quest, and not that of one of the dozen other agents equally dedicated to that same task.

A little bit “Full Metal Jacket”-style, the film breaks into two very distinct parts, with the quest being over at some point, and those who quest then merely being observers to the physical manhunt, the storming of the target residence. That last bit, I guess, is necessary to satisfy a wider audience, maybe the same crowd that went out on the streets shouting  patriotic slogans upon Bin Laden’s death and now coming to see how it happened for some additional endorphine dose – in terms of drama and intellectual challenge, it has nothing to add to what we saw before. In this final bit, the fact that everybody who walks into the theatre is aware of the result is actually detrimental to the viewing experience, something that is irrelevant in the first part of the movie. But when the infrared cameras and Navy Seals helicopters come off the shelf, the only thing to be done is to direct it as an action movie, and this kind of action movie we have seen before, and not just once. A more interesting decision would have been to wrap the film up before that, or stay with the agents in their headquarters while they are trying to follow events via satellite links. As it is, “Zero Dark Thirty” is a very interesting, very well-played effort as a political  thriller, but not a very good Special Ops combat mission flick. The “Homeland” crowd, I wanted to shout at the director, is not the “Alien vs Predator” crowd…

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  1. […] bit CIA, rolls into Mexico in a small convoy of SUVs to pick up a prisoner. It is like watching the raid on Abbottabad, there is a perennial feeling of threat, the streets are lined with heavily armed police (and the […]

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