[Marxism] Evidence that non-USA film critics not that impressed with "Zero Dark Thirty"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Dec 19 11:51:29 MST 2012

(Not that focused on the politics but astute on the film as film.)


Zero Dark Thirty

Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

In Zero Dark Thirty, Academy Award winning director Kathryn Bigelow 
takes her audience by the hand and explains, as you might to an 
inattentive child, that the terrorists who caused the 9/11 attacks now 
have to be interrogated.

The film starts with desperate phone calls from the Twin Towers in 2001, 
heard, not seen. What follow, announced as two years later, are long 
scenes of C.I.A. interrogations, with the implementation of towels, 
water, chains, boxes, cursing, hitting, insults. At first, the 
interrogators get nowhere; then, because of our heroine Maya (Jessica 
Chastain), whose only goal in life is to capture Osama bin Laden, they 

While it is good to see a woman as the hero of a movie that does not 
include a romantic relationship for her character to balance with her 
duties, Bigelow creates other obstacles. Chastain, the only actor in the 
film to pronounce the name of the al-Qaeda terrorist leader as La-dèn, 
is frightfully unbelievable as a C.I.A. agent, and Bigelow's decision to 
have her chew on things and 'eat like a man' in every second scene does 
not help alter that reality.

Let's have her eating french fries with ketchup, at her desk in the 
secret location in Pakistan, while she explains her theories to show how 
tough and masculine she is. And a cheeseburger with a coke half an hour 
later in the film, to show how American and patriotic she is, and tough 
and determined, in case you forgot. This is, unfortunately, how one can 
imagine discussions about the script. At the secret CIA "black site" in 
Gdansk, Poland, she even gets to lick her knife while talking "greed and 
ideology" with female colleague Jessica (Jennifer Ehle).

You could also close your eyes and let the mood music tell you exactly 
how to feel. Helicopter sounds, everyone speaking very fast at meetings 
in Langley, Virginia, so that we know it's business and serious, 
alternate with historical events. The search includes the shoe bomber 
conspiracy, the London bus bombings in July 2005, and the attack on the 
Karachi Marriott in 2008. Bigelow shows them as TV news, reenacts them, 
and has the events discussed by American agents. If you've read the 
paper during the last ten years, you won't get much new insight here.

Maya's friendly C.I.A. superior Dan (Jason Clarke), who instructs her 
and does most of the torturing with a kind and concerned face, calls the 
terrorists "Bro'" at the end of his sentences, and keeps repeating, 
what, I suppose, is the central message of the movie: ''When you lie to 
me, I hurt you.''

Jennifer Ehle as the second female agent does not get a chance to shine 
and is left to deliver lines in a hotel such as "We're socialising. Be 
social!" to knife licker Chastain.

Telegraphing scenes, so that even a halfway sensitive audience can 
anticipate exactly when to put its hands up to cover ears and eyes, is 
not a compromise worth making, except maybe at the box office. In Zero 
Dark Thirty you can study the conventions of how to film a person 
getting into a car that will be shot at. Everything is summed up and 
packaged neatly so as to not challenge the audience. Nothing surprises. 
What did you expect? Secrets revealed in a big Hollywood movie.

"That's not normal guy behavior. That's trade craft," explains 
Chastain's Maya about a suspect. Unfortunately, the same goes for her 
and all the other actors. Going on for nearly three hours, the 
predictability makes you drag along to see the scenes leading up to the 
capture. Writing numbers with a red pen on the glass of an inter-office 
wall to indicate that the men don't know what they are doing and that 
our heroine, who figured it all out, is impatient, does not create 
suspense, nor does it give any insight into human interactions in 
offices outside of fantasy land.

It appears the "strong female" in mainstream Hollywood productions still 
has to sell a Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich-style quirkiness to 
convey confidence. And I don't mean a way of dressing. I had to think 
about Disney's Beauty And The Beast while watching Zero Dark Thirty. 
Maya and bin La-dèn.

Following the critical success and honors bestowed upon her for The Hurt 
Locker, Bigelow appears to have been hired and asked to do the job the 
Hollywood financial backers wanted, instead of making her own film.

An American in Pakistan, the Musical - it could become a big hit on 
Broadway with Julie Taymor directing.

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