Yet another apparently great movie adds itself to the list with Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s film on the hunt for Bin Laden. Brooks Barnes at the NY Times has seen it, and includes some commentary in his interview with the Oscar winning team of Bigelow and screenwriter Marc Boal. It looks to be up to Bigelow’s preferred level of intensity, and will likely stand out among the other feelgood fare this year. Whose bringing the cojones? Bigelow’s bringing the cojones. There is something thrilling in that:

The new movie is not for the faint of heart or for those expecting typical Hollywood fare. Whether “Zero Dark Thirty” succeeds may depend on the willingness of audience members (and awards voters) to relive difficult events in a drama that Ms. Bigelow and Mr. Boal insist should honor the facts and protect sources, even if that means giving less attention to cinematic conventions like a love interest, comic twists (à la “Argo”) or characters’ back stories.


Perhaps more startling than Mr. Obama’s absence — nothing here about a “gutsy call” — is the decision to focus on a young woman who is portrayed as persisting for years in the pursuit when higher-ranking, more powerful and better-armed men around her were failing, lazy or clueless.

“For her, for our character, that’s how it felt,” Ms. Bigelow said. “She felt like she was battling all sides.”

Mr. Boal added that the story could have been told with as much validity through others who had participated.

“When you decide to tell the story through a specific person’s eyes, it defines what you see,” Mr. Boal said. As he and Ms. Bigelow prepare to meet Hollywood’s awards voters in the inevitable crash round of appearances — Oscar nomination voting begins on Dec. 17, and few here have seen the film — they are recovering from the rigors of a compressed filmmaking process that began this year and ended only five days ago, when she finished final touches.

Along the way, they were reported to have been harassed by rioters on a set in India, where protesters objected to their having dressed a largely Hindu district with Muslim-related signage. But the disturbance, the filmmakers said, was smaller than reported and quickly ended, a riot made for television news cameras and little more. Since then, they said, there have been no security threats of note.

I will be seeing Zero Dark Thirty tomorrow, Sunday, and will report back.

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  • steve50

    “Bigelow’s bringing the cojones.”

    Nevre doubted it for a second. Can’t wait for your report, Sasha.

  • Eric

    I really hope this delivers and diversifies the Oscar race. Read into that what you will.

  • Holly

    The Oscar is Chastain’s to lose. How often does an actress get that kind of lead role in Hollywood ? Good for her and I can’t wait to watch it.

  • GoOnNow

    I’m also berserk excited that Jessica was the one to play this mysterious apparently powerful woman, after all the mother roles (great roles but mother roles) of last year.

    She really has become the American Cate Blanchett and in ZERO time 😉

  • Yashar

    I really want to see Chastain do great in this film and get nominated for it. Last year she starred in many great films and was great in every single one of them. Sadly, she only got one supporting nomination and it was for her worst film.

    Also @GoOnNow, couldn’t have said it better. She indeed has become the American Cate Blanchett (God, I hope she has a bigger role in The Hobbit).

  • g

    Oh wow Sasha! I’m so happy you get to see this tomorrow, I’m dying to hear your reaction…

  • Mel

    Can’t wait to hear what you have to say. I am very excited. Will you be able to talk about it or is there an embargo for a period of time?

  • Mel, I’ve heard the ZDT embargo ends Sunday, which is practically tomorrow.

  • phantom

    The embargo ends tomorrow ? WOW, that’s promising news, so the studio is not even considering it a divisive masterpiece, they are probably expecting unanimous praise. They are now probably aware that they won’t be able to show it to every voter in time, so they are allowing critics to spread the word.

    Also, as ‘shocking’ as this may sound, and as great as Lawrence is in SLP according to reviews (I’m seeing it early January), I can’t see a Tiffany-type of female role winning over probably one of the most influential/powerful/important female characters like the mysterious ‘Jen’ seems to be. My two cents.

  • Tony

    I hate this time of year, when ordinary folks have to wait to see certain films. After the insiders, NY/LA folks get the best deal. I was thrilled a few years back, when “Million Dollar Baby” debuted in 4 locations, and the SF Bay Area was among them.

    So far in November, I’ve been able to see “The Sessions,” “Wreck It Ralph,” “Flight,” “Lincoln,” “Skyfall,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Life of Pi,” “Rise of the Guardians” and “Hitchcock” (decided to skip “Anna Karenina”), but I want more!

  • Winston

    The problem with the film is that even at first blush it comes across as nonsense. The CIA are the Keystone cops of the international intel community. And the central character is even more nonsensical: the heroic woman who singlehandedly tracked down Bin Laden. Yeah right. The only reason Bin Laden was found was because someone collected on the reward money. The whole thing smells like BS. Not a big fan of propaganda.

  • GoOnNow

    @ Yashar, patience 😉

    Cate’s cooking up a pack-attack 2013 & 2014

  • Jerry

    Embargo is over. First Review of Zero Dark Thirty: The Girl Who Got bin Laden | via @TIMECulture

  • Jerry

    Second review from The Hollywood Reporter:

  • GoOnNow

    @ Jerry, thanks for the links

    I’m a huge admirer of emotionally conservative performances and it seems Chastain is doing just that in this film.

  • phantom

    So Richard Corliss (Time) says it’s better than Argo, meanwhile Todd McCarthy wrote ‘it could well be the most impressive film Bigelow has made, as well as possibly her most personal’. Both reviews praised Chastain, both acknowledged Ehle as a worthy supporting player, but even with SEVERAL excellent supporting parts including Jason Clarke, the film seems to belong to Jessica Chastain.

    So…could we already have our top5/BD category ? Spielberg, Hooper, Affleck, Bigelow, Russell/Lee ? OR are we still expecting an unseen to surprise (Tarantino, Jackson, Van Sant) OR maybe even another risktaker (PTA, Bayona, Nolan, Wright, Wachowski/Tykwer) to make the cut ?

    Thoughts ?

    P.S. Based on these two reviews there are two damaging factors the film has to overcome : it doesn’t seem to be a movie that will appeal to the masses so BO could be limited which will be a problem considering the competition has very strong BO-potential AND Chastain’s character is all work, no play, she might not be emotional/relatable enough and even if it is a great turn could an understated performance compete with a bunch of flashy ones ESPECIALLY when there is a good chance reviewers will try to compare the character to Homeland’s flashy Carrie Mathison ?

  • Yashar

    Thanks for the review links. Getting kinda hyped because it seems to be a combination of best things about Hurt Locker (No-nonsense story and tight situation) without the bad parts (Some forced personal elements along with parts of ending / 3rd act).

    While these 2 super early reviews might be affected by hype and other things, I think the nominations race is finally over.

    Top 5 contenders are Lincoln, Argo, ZDT, Le Mis and finally SLP. With the addition of Flight and Life of Pi, we can have 7 BP noms. As for the directors race, Jackson and Tarantino will never make it to the top 5. The only loose end is Russel who might be dropped for Zemeckis, Lee or maybe PTA.

  • Daveylow

    The Hollywood Reporter review makes me wonder if this film will have even less appeal commercially than The Hurt Locker so I don’t know if it will be in the top 5 among the Academy. Has Life of Pi been screened for Academy voters already? How has it played?

  • rufussondheim

    The Hurt Locker would have done much better at the box office if it had been released in December (assuming that it got the same awards attention.) But it came out in summer and while it did get great critical notices, it didn’t get all of the “free” publicity from winning critic’s and other awards.

    Plus, ZDT has another huge advantage, it’s a non-fictional film about a story every American can relate to, and it has a cathartic ending. When I heard about the death of bin Laden, it was while watching a NY Mets/Phillies game and it was a surreal experience, watching the crowd as they realized what had happened. I have a good friend who was at that game and said it was one of his most memorable experiences.

    I think there is something to say about the collective experience here. And I’ve no clue if it will, but there is a chance that seeing this movie in a crowded theater will provide people with that collective catharsis. This movie could tap into the subconcious of many of us and capture us in a way no other movie possibly could.

    I also think that this film will generate so much media coverage, spots on every major news show, including 60 minutes, are more than likely, and if the two articles linked are any indication, the movie will be spoken about with much reverance. This could be that must-see movie for many people who rarely go see a movie.

  • DaneM

    Phantom – the film is going into wide release so late in the game, that BO probably won’t even be a consideration for voters. Hell, BO is probably never a consideration of the Academy members (who never seem to care about the ratings of their broadcast). If they cared about BO, Bigelow’s last film would not have stood a chance against Avatar.

  • DaneM

    Daveylow – The notion that 0D30 will have less BO appeal than The Hurt Locker is pretty ludicrous. EVERYONE knows about Seal Team Six by now and the hunt for Osama bin Laden was widely publicized. No one knew anything about the fictional The Hurt Locker, and I never saw trailers for it ahead of time like I have many times for 0D30.

  • Nik G

    Well if there was any movie to slam on the breaks of the Lez Miz/Lincoln speedtrain, it was ZD30. Word is stronger than I anticipated, and it’s looking more and more likely that Chastain is in for Best Actress. Looking forward to the full report.

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