Friday (Movie) Review: Zero Dark Thirty

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The story of the search for and ultimate killing of Osama bin Laden by the CIA, Zero Dark Thirty was marketed as a thriller. It got pretty  good reviews, and it seems many liked it. I found it rather less than thrilling. The story focuses on Maya, an agent who becomes obsessed with finding bin Laden, even when no one else thinks she is right. She doggedly follows her “hiding in plain sight” instincts, and ultimately is proven right.

The movie is, in a way, a character study. Part of the problem I had was that I really didn’t find any of the characters worth studying.  Maya, played by Jessica Chastain, is tenacious and doesn’t buckle  in the face of pressure from politically driven superiors. At the same time, I saw and felt very little passion in the performance. Maya was insistent, but doesn’t seem emotionally invested enough in what she believes to pull me in. Most of the other cast members are secondary, with the exception of Dan, played by Jason Clarke, who’s main appearances are in the first half of the movie, and whose purpose seems to be the torture and traditional interrogation advocate contrasting Maya’s information and intellectual tactics. Even the actual invasion of the compound where bin Laden is hiding out is rather low-key and consists of little more than the team of Navy Seals creeping from floor to floor in their search and shooting people.

Maybe I didn’t pay close enough attention (I will admit, I was not hanging on every word), and missed some of the good parts. But nothing caught my attention enough to make me want to pay that close attention, and in a movie like this, where the action is more internal, the characters and script have to spark that interest. This one didn’t.