Kathryn Bigelow‘s Zero Dark Thirty is an immensely satisfying real-world, fact-based thriller and easily one of the greatest films of the 21st Century…a touchstone that everyone has to see and re-see and think about often.
I’ve seen it a good six or seven times, and I could easily watch it again tonight with pleasure. I admire it so much that a part of me wants to purchase the 4K version, even though I know it’s not that much of a bump from the 1080p Bluray.
And I really get infuriated when I run into people who bring up the torture content as something that undermines the basic quality of the film (it doesn’t in the slightest) or who say they found it somehow boring or uninvolving.
From Todd McCarthy‘s Hollywood Reporter enthusiastic review: “Whether you call it well informed speculative history, docu-drama recreation or very stripped down suspense filmmaking, Zero Dark Thirty matches form and content to pretty terrific ends.
“And yet [pic] will be tough for some viewers to take, not only for its early scenes of torture, including water boarding but due to its denial of conventional emotionalism and non-gung ho approach to cathartic revenge-taking.
McCarthy’s suspicion is that ZDT‘s “rigorous, unsparing approach will inspire genuine enthusiasm among the serious, hardcore film crowd more than with the wider public.”
“Even though it runs more than two-and-a-half hours, Zero Dark Thirty is so pared to essentials that even politics are eliminated,” McCarthy goes on. “There’s essentially no Bush or Cheney, no Iraq War, no Obama announcing the success of the May 2, 2011 raid on Bin Laden’s in-plain-sight Pakistani compound. [And yet] the film’s power steadily and relentlessly builds over its long course, to a point that is terrifically imposing and unshakable.”
Posted on 12.9.14: “A just-released, in-depth Senate report on torture during the Bush years delivers “a sweeping indictment of the C.I.A. interrogation program carried out in secret prisons after the Sept. 11 attacks,” says this morning’s lead N.Y. Times story. The report says that torture practices were much harsher than previously reported or acknowledged.
“And yet, paradoxically, information disclosed this morning by the CIA validates depictions and confirms indirect results of CIA torture in Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal‘s Zero Dark Thirty, which suggested that torture led to key information about the whereabouts of 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden. If anything the report makes clear that Zero Dark Thirty under-played the use of torture by the CIA.
“Industry-based ZDT critics claimed the film was condoning torture by depicting that it happened. This led to ZDT suffering a terrible award-season takedown at the hands of knee-jerk lefties in late 2012 and early 2013.
“Early today the CIA posted the first public acknowledgement that (a) Ammar al-Baluch (played by Reda Kateb in ZDT) was tortured or about to be tortured, and (b) that Ammar provided the first big clue after torture that led to the finding of Osama’s courier.”