Zero Dark Thirty Screen 19 articles

Zero Dark Thirty

2012

Zero Dark Thirty Poster
  • Even to stare down at a brutal interrogation scene and wonder whether it’s worth it, whether torture really does work as an information-gathering tool, is still to presume that it would, in fact, be legitimized by its revelations—and to assume that if torture doesn't work, then surely some other operation does. In other words, to ask, as Zero Dark Thirty has its audience do throughout, whether the end justifies the means, is to presume that the end is a worthwhile one to begin with.

  • A parallel with rape imposes itself here: what if a film were to show a brutal rape in the same neutral way, claiming that one should avoid cheap moralism and start to think about rape in all its complexity? Our guts tell us that there is something terribly wrong here; I would like to live in a society where rape is simply considered unacceptable, so that anyone who argues for it appears an eccentric idiot, not in a society where one has to argue against it. The same goes for torture...

  • The 20-minute sequence in which the SEALs raid the bin Laden compound in almost complete darkness is masterful, compelling filmmaking, to be sure. But it's of a vernacular sort, the lingua franca of the blockbuster combat film. The muscular editing and play of sickly green light across a pitch-black screen, coupled with the tense awareness of jeopardy they produce, help us to cope with images of Arab women being shot...

  • 'Depiction is not endorsement', but depiction comes with an endorsement here: the film leads with torture and torture is shown to work, nor does it seem to have much of a corrosive moral effect on those doing the torturing.

  • The movie keeps pretending to be about her and then pretending not to be, over and over, and consequently winds up as both a half-assed character study (final shot didn't do anything for me, I'm afraid) and a somewhat compromised procedural. Still plenty gripping—more and more so as it goes along; early waterboarding scenes felt rote to me, like slightly artier Jack Bauer—and there are a few stray, almost incidental moments in which it transcends solid cine-journalism.

  • For its faults as a piece of narrative cinema, Zero Dark Thirty seems more suitably positioned as a necessary cross-examination into the ideological and political-ethical confusion that's compromised the post-9/11 American character. Whether such a cinematic grilling merits such enhanced interrogation techniques is muddiest of its many inkblots.

  • Kathryn Bigelow's new movie has a lot in common with another ambitious film released this year by a major American filmmaker—Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master. Both films deal with systems—the War on Terror in Zero Dark Thirty, the Cause in The Master—which purport to overcome past traumas (9/11, bad memories) by transforming lived experience into abstract objects (military intelligence data, the Cause's performance-based therapy) and which become ends in and of themselves.

  • The film is a cinematic page-turner, constructed on a simple architecture: the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden... But there’s something perverse about approaching “Zero Dark Thirty” as exciting action entertainment: it’s based on real events and real people, and, in surprisingly many ways, its subject is at the very core of contemporary American politics: the use of force by the United States government...

  • Zero Dark Thirty is just another incredibly well-fashioned product of the same morbid culture that considers weaponry sexy and art featuring evisceration and tales of war fascinating—which is to say, pretty much all of Western culture ever. But though there may be a certain degree of bloodlust running in our DNA, we can aspire to better.

  • Bigelow certainly makes sure to include a lot of screaming/crying women and children, just to hammer the point home, but I dislike movies which lean on empathy rather than ethics (that's closer to bathos than thinking). By this point, I'd lapsed into such a torpor I maybe didn't appreciate how impressive this sequence was logistically; I'd kind of like to see it again out of context. Which itself is a problem.

  • As major as Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker felt, it’s hard to appreciate the leap she takes here, launching her actors into scorched, obsessed territory last roamed by David Fincher’s Zodiac.

  • It is a wrenchingly sad, soul-shaking story about revenge and its moral costs, which makes it the most important American fiction movie about Sept. 11, a landmark that would be more impressive if there were more such films to choose from.

  • The uncertainty is gripping; the attacks, when they do occur, never less than startling. Above all, Bigelow makes you feel the defeat of those who know they might have prevented them, especially Maya, always seeming to look through people rather than at them, focused on the endgame.

  • Zero Dark Thirty is an extraordinary account of a period, and of an event whose most famous publicity photo was a roomful of people watching.

  • Bigelow allows us to experience the torture primarily from the prisoner’s perspective, dog collar and all, even while his personality remains unknown; the value of such tactics eventually must be determined without baroquely humanizing those who suffer at the wrong end of them. (Does it matter what kind of human he is, so long as he is one? And then: Is it worth subjecting any human being to this, regardless of what he might know?)

  • The Abbottabad raid proves again that Bigelow directs action with a clarity her contemporaries lack. This year hasn’t given us a more riveting or instructive half-hour than the one in which SEALs enter the compound and wind their way to the third floor. Even when they shoot the “jackpot,” it’s matter-of-fact—just something that happens. Maya gets the final word—note the colors behind her in the closing shot—as her globe-trotting quest concludes and she ponders where to go next.

  • Zero Dark Thirty is the ne plus ultra of proceduralism, its ultimate expansion and reductio ad absurdum. It’s all about the well-nigh interminable process of searching for, and then eliminating, Osama Bin Laden.

  • Although the scene [where Dan gives shade to the monkeys but not the caged men] depicts the joy Dan takes in an act of care, it does not show us what he possesses that lessens our sense of the evil he contributes to the world. It rather shows that his is a soul incapable of feeling itself in proper relation to others, an absence that allows him to see those other human beings tied up in the sun nearby as less deserving of human treatment than he is...

  • Bigelow's assured, breathless handling of the climactic siege on Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad may be the most potent and seemingly effortless display of the director's ability to choreograph exact and powerful movement in tight, dangerous spaces; her ability to mount active tension is very simply unparalleled.

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