Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty (2012, Kathryn Bigelow) - 157 min.

I just love it when I spend a few hours writing a post and find out that Chrome somehow broke down and the post was never saved. I'm a bit too frustrated to rewrite the whole post, so I'll just rewrite the gist of it and then pose a question.

Zero Dark Thirty is an intriguing film. Looking at it as nothing more than a film, it's spectacular and makes really interesting use of sound. Looking at it in the context of history, current events, and the film's marketing, it becomes something much more polarizing. I have read argument after argument about whether or not the film is accurate, if it portrays torture in a positive or negative light, and if Kathryn Bigelow is allowed to call her film "the first draft of history" (personally, I took that statement to mean a "rough draft" of history, although others interpreted it differently). The history comment seems to have raised the most heated arguments. My guy and I even got into a pretty intense debate about it.

This brings me to ask, do you think that films can portray history? Can films be considered an accurate portrayal to any degree? Is it different if the film is a documentary?

Verdict: 8/10


4 comments:

  1. JFK, Braveheart, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, all contain dubious historical accuracy but are nonetheless very effective pieces of cinema.

    The question in my mind isn't whether a film portraying past events is slavishly historically accurate but, 'Does it have something to say about the events?'.

    In the case of ZDT the chief source of consternation among many critics is whether the film advocates the use of torture. My perception is that it attempts to not take a stance. It shows torture as being somewhat effective, but we see the toll it takes on Maya. She seems to have lost some of her soul by the end of the film.

    My question is whether the film is simply an exciting series of scenes featuring high stakes, but little to no character development. Is Maya a fully fleshed out character or a cipher that places the onus on the audience to fill in the blanks about who she is.

    I think Jessica Chastain is a fantastic actress but I felt when compared to Bigelows previous film I had far less to chew on character-wise. The "War is a drug" thesis of the film worked so well with Jeremy Renner's character. Those scenes where he is back home, or spending down time with his squad mates help to invest the audience in the ideas the film presents.

    Zero Dark Thirty to me was very entertaining, but not in the way a great film is. It was more like watching the most expensive History Channel re-enactment ever made.

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    1. 'Does it have something to say about the events?'

      That's how I think about it too. I see what the film says about events as a way of informing the cultural reaction around an event, therefore making it a legitimate form of historical representation, although it's not necessarily the best representation of the cold hard facts. But how much of what we know about history is really true anyway? Kids are taught to celebrate Christopher Columbus in elementary school, but you learn later that Christopher Columbus was actually a terrible person who would chop off natives' hands if they didn't bring him their weight in gold.

      As for Maya, I feel like they hinted at what inspires her drive to find Bin Laden with the bit about her being recruited right out of high school, but I wish they had expanded on that a bit more.

      Another aspect of the film that I found interesting was the killing of Bin Laden and the reaction to it. When one of the men let out a cheer it felt so out of place. I might be reading into it, but it seems like it might have been a comment on how inappropriate our nation's celebration of his death was.

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  2. "Another aspect of the film that I found interesting was the killing of Bin Laden and the reaction to it. When one of the men let out a cheer it felt so out of place. I might be reading into it, but it seems like it might have been a comment on how inappropriate our nation's celebration of his death was."

    This right here is what bothered me about the movie. That mixed with the extra shots at him when he was already dead left a bad taste in my mouth. The rest of the movie however was very well done.

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  3. jessica chastain is outstanding. the film grows on you and i love the documentary feel to it. its a bold film to make. Katherine is a star director. commendable effort as in many places u feel as if u r a part of the project.

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