The title Zero Dark Thirty is military jargon for 30 minutes after midnight which is about the time the raid on the Osama Bin Laden compound was initiated by the Navy Seals/DEVGRU – but it took well over two hours to get to this incendiary point in the movie as Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal first had to subject us to the oft seen cliche character of the smart, hard nosed, obsessive CIA agent who is determined to move heaven and earth, come hell or high water, to complete their mission and task of obtaining justice. While the depiction of the interrogation torture scenes are stirring all the controversy surrounding this movie, frankly I’m more tortured by the way Jessica Chastain’s performances continue to get so many accolades when this time around all she does is intensely stare at fucking computer screens – her one breakout moment being when she confronts her boss (Joseph Bradley) in the corridors of Langley which is terribly trite and predictable given that her reasoning is “a lot of my friends have died trying to do this, and I believe I was left here to finish it” or even better, later on, “I’m the motherfucker that found him”.
Now I don’t want to get into a pissing match with other bloggers out there like I did with Argo, so I’m not going to get into the accuracy and the degree of dramatic license of the Chastain character and how they portray her to single handedly find the most wanted man on the planet, but I will say that the dichotomy between the pursuit of Bin Laden and the seemingly accurate reenactment of the killing of Bin Laden is somewhat puzzling to me. It felt as though the climax had absolutely nothing to do with Chastain’s character at that point, especially when they occasionally cut to her nail biting reaction during the raid.
That’s probably why I enjoyed the night vision Navy Seals sequence and regret that it wasn’t more about their mission and preparation, I mean Chris Pratt did do all that work to get in good shape for it. But why cast Mark Duplass and James Gandolfini in such thankless minor roles? At least they have speaking parts unlike Ricky Sekhon who gets to play dead as Bin Laden! Still, Bigelow must be commended for her direction (and Alexandre Desplat score) though I feel it covers somewhat of the same terrain as her previous film, The Hurtlocker, and hope that she moves on to greener pastures. But James Gandolfini may get there before her.
In Michael Shannon’s latest psychotic episode, Take Shelter, he is plagued by apocalyptic bedwetting nightmares as he struggles to get a grip on his Midwest, mayonnaise salad reality. Though it doesn’t help that his Mother is plum nuts – nor does the added stress of paying for his deaf Daughter’s expensive surgery or a wife, Jessica Chastain, that sows and seams on the side (and has Kenny Power’s slutty Wife for a best friend). So as any man would do, he takes out a loan against his house to build a top notch storm shelter.
But before this exploration into Shannon’s psychosis, the Producers of the film were in attendance to provide a quick intro, and afterwards, a Q&A that made me wish I’d taken shelter myself. Like proud parents, except the fact they gushed and praised themselves – One who reminded us peons that she used go to the Angelika theater as an NYU student, trying to convey what a long journey it has been, while the other dude was busy dropping names – both ass kissing the director, Jeff Nichols and drawing comparisons to Close Encounters and The Shining. But I didn’t see no fucking aliens or ghosts, just another dysfunctional family trying not to fall from the tree of life. However, Nichols does succeed in examining Shannon’s mental breakdown. Then again after past run ins with Shannon on the streets it comes as no surprise when he loses his shit and flips the fuck out at the church dinner scene – “There’s a storm-a coming!”
(Tyler Davidson & Sophia Lin)
So when the final credits were rolling the first question raised was, “What happened at the end?” Given that it’s ending is ambiguous they gave their pat answer as its soul is about a family’s communication and the state of the gloomy world. But that doesn’t explain that insane tsunami and multiple tornadoes threatening their vacation on Myrtle Beach. Too bad Shannon’s survival kit of gas masks and canned beans didn’t include a radio for they might have been a bit more in tune with Harold Camping’s sermon. In the end, I couldn’t care less if it was a dream or reality, Myrtle Beach is a shit hole anyway…and I’d rather watch my Serious Man Blu Ray.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation…while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”
– The Book of Job 38:4,7
Jesus Malick! And where the fuck have you been since Days of Heaven? You should have quit while you were ahead instead of ruining your legacy with three mediocre movies. Hey Terry, I have two words for you; Harper Lee.
From the get go The Tree of Life has confluence of Darwinian and overtly preachy bible mumbo jumbo ethos that permeate the movie and beckon audiences to question the meaning of life and death. One wonders if Malick’s foundation rooted in Waco, Texas made him another byproduct spawning the likes of David Koresh to Jessica Simpson who are also fellow honorary God loving citizens. Thank whoever – Willie Nelson was spared. Either way, I was more interested in the special effects and consultant Douglas Trumball. Especially that dino scene!
But of the many haunting and fleeting images, the one that reoccurs like chapter bookends is of a glowing orb like flame that flickers in Deep Space Nine or used here instead as a standard representation of the so-called Creator of the Universe. I prefer a Black Monolith myself or Roman Castevet. Anyway, while Malick’s need for a narration and Alexandre Desplat soundtrack are overdone, Pitt and Chastain’s performance and beauty require little dialogue as Emmanuel Lubezki stunning camera work keeps us interested enough. But Sean Penn is no Benjamin Button. He meanders on a beach, disheveled and “soul searching” with a face not even a mother can love, when in reality the true mystery is how he bagged Scarlett Johansson!
(After her Jimmy Fallon appearance it’s no wonder she has no dialogue.)
The old adage of less is more can not hold truer than in the case of Badlands and Days of Heaven, both clocking in at 94 minutes, whereas these last three are just as long as the entire James Bond series. So after surviving the Big Bang and Harold Camping’s May 21 rapture the one question I left with is why the film closes on a shot of the Verazzano Bridge over to Staten Island? Now that truly is The Land of the Lost, just ask George Harrison.