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Zero Dark Thirty Review: Spoiler Alert: They Kill bin Laden

Good news – Zero Dark Thirty is good! It is also long. Really long. What more can really be said about the movie about the book about the people who tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden? You know what it is about.  You know how it ends. You know its good because of the director and the Oscar nomination it received before it was actually, you know, released for the public to see.

ZDT begins with a black screen re-living the sounds of the morning of September 11, 2001. In the movie, like in real life, it is a long time between that morning and the raid that kills bin Laden. ZDT is all of two hours and thirty-seven minutes. To Kathryn Bigelow’s credit, it moves along, revisiting places and acts of terror in between the two major events that bookend this movie. In between? It’s not the thrilling hunt to kill bin Laden it looks like.

The movie is like a Law & Order episode, split up into two parts. The much longer portion of the movie is the police procedural part of Law & Order as Maya, our red-headed CIA operative without a last name becomes obsessed with bin Laden and tracks him down through interrogation and following leads. Maya won’t take no for an answer, even if no one wants to listen to her. Did I mention she is obsessed?

Eventually, after some characters come and go and some more terrorism takes place, Maya gets her big break. Then she has to spend a half hour convincing people to believe in her theory. Eventually, instead of going to a courtroom with Jack McCoy, bin Laden faces trial in a courtroom run by Joel Edgerton and Andy Dwyer friend of the site, Chris Pratt. I’m not sure how much time we get with SEAL Team 6, but its not enough. Why not just add another 5 minutes of Chris Pratt saying, “Osama bin Laden?” How many members of SEAL Team 6 were there? Who knows! Nobody gets a line unless they have a hat and beard.

Zero Dark Thirty didn’t have the emotional impact I expected. Going in, I was ready to leave feeling quite patriotic. Even after 2+ hours when Maya finally gets the “It’s going down” phone call it kind of falls flat. Oh, I hope I didn’t spoil that moment for you because there is no way to see the end of the movie coming unless you’ve read the book. The movie just isn’t as impactful and epic as you would think the greatest manhunt in history would be when you get to dramatize it for a movie. ZDT makes the hunt for bin Laden a passion project of a woman that no one really believes in. The raid on bin Laden’s hideout is great. It’s well-shot and its full of tension. The movie as a whole is well-done and exactly what it looks like the trailer, but with a lot less intensity than you expect. I’m glad I saw it, but I don’t think I’ll ever watch it again.

 

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