Why Zero Dark Thirty might clinch an Oscar


New Delhi, Dec. 11 -- Zero Dark Thirty is a chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May, 2011.

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Writer: Mark Boal (screenplay)

Stars: Chris Pratt, Jessica Chastain and Joel Edgerton

Zero Dark Thirty is picking up steam ahead of next year's Academy Awards. Following the words of praise emanating from the New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC), the movie hit the right note with the National Board of Review (NBR).

The organization founded in 1909 hailed Zero Dark Thirty as the best film of 2012, it announced on December 5. Kathryn Bigelow was also bestowed with best director honors, and the film's lead, Jessica Chastain, was ranked as best actress.

Reviewers have given positive reviews left, right and centre. Here's a sample for you:

David Edelstein of New York Magazine in his review says: "The first masterstroke is the first thing you see-or, rather, don't see. Under a black screen, the sounds of 9/11 build: a hubbub of confusion, reports of a plane hitting the World Trade Center, and then, most terribly, the voice of a woman crying out to a 911 operator who tries vainly to assure her she'll be okay. She won't be. That prologue looks like restraint-there are no sensationalistic images-but it's cruel: The recordings are genuine. You want revenge so much it hurts, but you'll have to live with the pain."

What more do you need? This is a patriotic voice in times when the world is shrinking - by reach of tech and terror. An Oscar nod might just solidify that connect with a true-blue American and universalise it all the same.

Todd McCarthy of Hollywood Reporter writes in his review: "Even though it runs more than 2 1/2 hours, Zero Dark Thirty is so pared to essentials that even politics are eliminated; there's essentially no Bush or Cheney, no Iraq War, no Obama announcing the success of the May 2, 2011, raid on bin Laden's in-plain-sight Pakistani compound. Similarly absent is any personal life for the single-minded heroine; when it's suggested at one point that she might want to have a fling, she colorfully replies that she's not a girl who does that sort of thing. The film does question whether she gives up some of her humanity to so selflessly dedicate herself to this sole professional aim but seems to answer that, for some, this is what represents the essence of life; everything else is preparation and waiting."

Peter Debruge of Variety magazine says: "Stepping up from a year busy with supporting roles, Chastain may at first seem an unusual choice for the lead. But she shows she has the chops to embody the pic's iron-nerved protag, holding her own in the testosterone-thick world of CIA black sites and top-level Washington boardrooms."

Debruge adds: "Maya may not be made of the same stuff as her male colleagues, but that's essential to the operation's success. While those around her equivocate and refuse to take action, she sticks to her guns and keeps track, in dry-erase marker, of the bureaucratic delays since they've located bin Laden."

"Like Bigelow herself, Maya realizes that actions - or action movies, in the director's case - are the surest way to combat a tradition in which society doesn't believe women to be capable of getting the job done, and "Zero Dark Thirty" follows the character through every significant step along her 10-year journey to hold bin Laden accountable for 9/11," says Debruge

Kathryn Bigelow perhpas views the world with the same singular lens, and that may just make the Hurt Locker maker second-time lucky at the big league. The film then overtly emphasises gender equations and triumphs the feminist cause.

There's just more praise flowing. Katey Rich of Guardian [UK] says: "Telling a nearly three-hour story with an ending everyone knows, Bigelow and Boal have managed to craft one of the most intense and intellectually challenging films of the year."

So, is it being viewed with awe by all? There's this one observation that stands out. David Edelstein of New York Magazine says: "Kathryn Bigelow's kill-bin Laden epic Zero Dark Thirty is the most neutral-seeming "America, Fuck Yeah!" picture ever made. In its narrative arc, it is barely distinct from a boneheaded right-wing revenge picture, but the vibe is cool, brisk, grown-up, packed with impressively real-sounding intel jargon. And the hero is no gun-toting macho man."

TIME Magazine's Richard Corliss sums it up thus: "It's a subject perfect for Bigelow. She has wrangled complex stories about cops (Blue Steel), undercover FBI agents (Point Break) and nuclear-submarine commanders (K19: The Widowmaker) and in the process proved herself to be one of cinema's most inventive visual strategists and field commanders - and, in a nice way, Hollywood's ballsiest director. Perched between the serene classicism of old Hollywood and the jittery crazy-cam of the Bourne era, Bigelow's style is terse and assured. There's no question which side she's on, but she allows virtually all the characters, American and Middle Eastern, their moments of reason or sympathy. In this case she is neither prosecutor nor judge - simply the sharpest, most attentive member of the jury."

Oscar or no Oscar this film is about to give the world a perspective on the real event, albiet through art.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.