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Rated 3.9 stars
by 4268 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Zero Dark Murky
by Betty Jo Tucker

Say what you will, but films about torture and killing usually give viewers a thrill. That’s probably why director Kathryn Bigelow focuses so much on these two activities in Zero Dark Thirty. Throw in revenge for 9/11 plus “the greatest manhunt in history,” and you’re sure to have a hit on your hands -- no matter how murky the filmmaking and morality of the project may be.

At the center of the story is Maya (Jessica Chastain), a CIA operative obsessed with finding Osama bin Laden. We know little else about her -- except that she doesn’t get too concerned about the torture techniques being used by her colleague Dan (Jason Clarke) to gain information about terrorists. She watches lengthy sessions of waterboarding, sexual humiliation and dog-collaring of prisoners without complaint, then even becomes involved herself.

When I say “lengthy,” I mean about the first half-hour of the movie. So why didn’t I walk out of the theater? Because the hype got to me. After all, this film received a nomination for a Best Picture Oscar, and Chastain is up for Best Actress. The movie will get better as it moves along, I told myself.

Wrong! Procedural repetition becomes the name of the game from that point on until the actual Seal Team 6 raid on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, which comes across as one of the year’s murkiest sequences. It’s not clear what was happening and who did what to whom. And what does the final scene mean? Is Maya satisfied or sad or mad or glad? Most importantly, was that shot added to make sure Chastain wins the Oscar this year? Maybe so, for her character displays very little emotion during the rest of the film except when she lashes out at one of her superiors. Still, Chastain manages to project Maya’s relentless dedication and commitment to her job quite convincingly.

Finally, am I alone in being disappointed by not enough camera time given to the individual Seal Team 6 members who participated in bringing down bin Laden? This is a 2-hour-35-minute film, for gosh sakes, and I wanted to learn more about them.    

For me, Zero Dark Thirty raises more questions than it answers about an important historic event. I found the over-long docudrama neither enlightening nor entertaining.  

(Released by Columbia Pictures and rated “R” for strong violence, including brutal disturbing images and some language.)

For more information about this film, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.

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