Zero Dark Thirty – Review

5/5 – Zero Dark Thirty should be on your Must See list!

I didn’t think it would happen, but I might now like a movie from 2012 more than Argo. I loved Argo and am glad that Ben Affleck has been taking a bunch of awards home for it, but wow, Zero Dark Thirty, you are amazing.

To be honest, I wasn’t too excited for Zero Dark Thirty. I thought Hurt Locker was great, but it was so emotionally draining that I wasn’t sure if I could sit through another Kathryn Bigelow military movie. I had a feeling I would probably respect ZDT more than I would actually like it. Still, I wanted to see as many Best Picture nominees as I could before the Oscars, so I went with my Billy and Bryan Show co-host and frequent commenter on this blog, Bryan, to see it at at Cobble Hill Cinemas.

First, a little about Cobble Hill Cinemas before I get into the movie. I was pleasantly surprised to find that our Saturday screening qualified for the discount rate. Their discount calendar is little complex. Tuesday and Thursday movies are discounted all day. Monday and Wednesday are discounted before 5 PM. The first screening of a movie is discounted on Saturdays, but only if it is before 1 PM. And I think the fifth screening of a movie is discounted on Ash Wednesday if the date ends in a vowel.

There’s also some new items on the menu at the snack counter: Mexican coffee, and the Abuelita which is Mexican coffee mixed with hot chocolate. Oooo, how worldly! One Abuelita, please! Unfortunately, the drink becomes a little less exciting and worldly when you realize it’s coming from a Nescafe machine.

Okay, enough about the snack counter.

The opening minute or two of Zero Dark Thirty is very intense. The screen is black and all you hear are news reports and 911 calls from September 11, 2001. It’s rough, because I was immediately taken back to that day. At the same time, I was wondering why Kathryn Bigelow decided to start the movie like that. My theory is that it primes the audience to identify with the US interrogators who were using enhanced interrogation techniques.  All I can say is that it worked, because I found myself very much rooting for Jason Clarke’s character Dan to get information from that first suspect.

Jason Clarke is great in Zero Dark Thirty. I’m surprised he wasn’t nominated for an Oscar. Maybe his role in the film was too short to qualify as a Best Supporting Actor?

The real shining star of the movie is Jessica Chastain. Her character, Maya, reminds me of Erin Brockovich era Julia Roberts, and not just because they both have fair skin and red hair. It’s because they’re both no-nonsense women on missions, who are sacrificing their personal lives and going to the breaking point for the greater good. Maya’s response to James Gandolfini, when he asks who she is, might be my favorite line in the entire movie.

I’m surprised that Jennifer Lawrence is favored to win the Oscar for Best Lead Actress over Jessica Chastain. I liked Silver Linings Playbook a lot, but outside of her scene-stealing speech in Pat’s house, I didn’t think Jennifer Lawrence’s character was Oscar favorite-worthy over Maya.

There were a surprising number of TV actors in this movie. Kyle Chandler, James Gandolfini, Harold Perrineau (who, surprisingly did not yell “WALLLLLLLLLLLLTTTTT!!!!!” even once), John Barrowman, Mark Duplass and Christ Pratt all have roles. Out of them, I knew only Chris Pratt was in ZDT. He’s not in the movie as much as the trailer suggests, but he gives a very good dramatic performance. I’m so used to him in the comedic role of Andy on Parks and Rec that I forgot I first saw him in the drama, Everwood.

I’d been on a Torchwood and Doctor Who binge right before I saw ZDT, so when John Barrowman appeared on screen, I giggled.

After seeing Kyle Chandler in both Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, I’m fairly convinced he is an actual CIA agent.

Coach Taylor is Agent Chandler’s cover story.

The odds on favorite for Best Picture going into Sunday’s Academy Awards is Argo, and I’m very happy for Ben Affleck. He was unduly snubbed by the Academy for Best Director, so I hope he walks away with Best Picture. But after seeing Zero Dark Thirty, my personal race for Best Picture is too close to call.