24 Frames Reviews: Zero Dark Thirty

Jan 10, 2013

  The death of Osama Bin Laden in 2011 was a time of national and self reflection. Staring at the television set, tears welling in my eyes, I didn’t imagine his death would affect me the way it did. I was a college Freshman on September 11th 2001 and I will never forget how vulnerable I felt, and while Bin laden’s death didn’t make me safer, or didn’t actually mean that we won a war, I still felt relieved, that a giant burden had been lifted.

It doesn’t take long for Hollywood to reflect real life and who better to direct a film about the death of Bin 

Laden than Kathryn Bigalow the Oscar winning director of “The Hurt Locker”. That film, about a bomb squad in the early days of the Iraq war, seems like the sweeping epic “Ben Hur” compared to the sparse, real-to-life, filmmaking of “Zero Dark Thirty”, the film about the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden. Opening tomorrow, “Zero Dark Thirty” starts at September 11th and works forward, jumping into the life of CIA operative Mya, played by Jessica Chastain,  and her unrelenting tenacity in catching Osama Bin Laden. I liked “Zero Dark Thirty” but I felt the reach for realism went a little too far as I didn’t seem to care for any of the characters. I think about another film this year that detailed a CIA operation, “Argo”, it sacrificed realism for a better film narrative and benefited overall, making for a taut thriller that left you on the edge of your seat even though you knew the ending. “Zero Dark Thirty” has it’s tense thriller moments, but overall feels dry, even a little hollow.

The filmmakers have admitted that the torture scenes in “Zero” were dramatized for effect, and it makes you wonder why they didn’t dramatize more to help the audience feel like they were in greater suspense. When Seal Team 6 finally breaches Osama Bin Laden’s compound you can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed, as if it’s business as usual. The problem is that it was business as usual for these trained killers and the giant sweeping effect that it had on America is left on the back burner to show the effect it had on one woman whose job it was to see the end. The problem is for Mya, it was just a job, for me and the rest of America it was so much more.