Zero Dark Thirty (Distributed by Columbia Pictures, 2012). Written by Mark Boal. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
Reviewed by Gary Gordon
Posted on January 8, 2013 by the Communications Committee
There's a scene in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye during which a gangster wanting information from a private eye takes a coke bottle and smashes it into his own girlfriend’s jaw, shattering her face and sending blood flying. It is one of the most disturbing, violent acts I've seen on film, so much so that when I watch the movie I can’t watch that scene. After getting hit, the girl, a towel on her face, increasingly bloody from the wound, cries and gropes her way out of the car, with no help, and the gangster explains to the private eye that he loves her, so the private eye should imagine what he will do to him if the private eye doesn’t talk.
Nothing this violent, this shocking, this sudden, this emotionally and psychologically engaging happens in Zero Dark Thirty, a tepid, badly directed, shoddy, mediocre procedural that has none of the brain power of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and none of the compelling involvement of any episode of Law and Order SVU. It's too bad Gary Oldman wasn’t asked to star in it with Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay.
Zero Dark Thirty. Spoiler alert: They find and kill Osama bin Laden.
Yes, some torture is depicted in the movie. But given director Kathryn Bigelow's love affair with herky-jerky angles and close-ups and the fashionable quick-cutting and rejection of master shots, the torture might as well be the equivalent of a modern movie dance scene -- you know, where you don’t really see all the dancers dance, you just see movement of arms, legs, knees, feet, hands, etc. Goldfinger's laser aimed at James Bond's crotch was more chilling.