Wednesday night Chris and I saw a free preview screening of Zero Dark Thirty, which I had wanted to see but was also a little nervous about. Movies about war aren’t really my favorite for a number of reasons, and I fully expected to be stressed while watching it, which ended up being completely accurate.
Zero Dark Thirty is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a bad movie. But is it a good movie? I almost have the same conflicting feelings about saying the movie was good as I did about being happy about someone’s death, even if that someone happened to be Osama bin Laden. I think a lot of that boils down to the timing of this movie being too soon after the actual assassination of bin Laden. A year and a half isn’t enough time to separate the movie from the actual event.
The movie opens with a black screen, only playing audio of 911 calls and voicemails left by September 11 victims. While I think this is sort of a cheap tactic, it can’t help but be an effective reminder of the human element that was at stake in searching for bin Laden. I had a bit of a hard time following the story at the beginning, a combination of having little knowledge of the politics and events themselves as well as just not being great with political/espionage movies in general. I feel like I always have a little trouble following movies like that. In my defense, I think it can be a sign of weak storytelling if someone with no knowledge of the subject can’t follow what’s happening.
There’s too much of a mix of fact and fiction here: for such a huge and recent event, it’s not fair for the filmmakers to make the audience pick and choose what they know about the subject versus what’s being shown on screen. With movies like this, I feel like you have to go all the way, making a borderline documentary, or fictionalize it entirely. Maybe that’s just me, but I think the whole thing could have benefited from being made much later.
That being said, it was nice to see Jessica Chastain in something other than fucking Tree of LIfe, which I hate so much. Despite playing a pretty one-dimensional character, she did a good job here.