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Dueling Reviews: Zero Dark Thirty

Updated: Tuesday, January 8 2013, 08:35 PM CST

Bettie's Take - If you think that Zero Dark Thirty is a movie about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, then you’re about 30 percent right. The preceding 70 percent of the story deals with the CIA’s dogged pursuit of him, and specifically, a single-minded agent known only as Maya (played by Jessica Chastain). She uncovers a lead about how to find OBL through grueling, aggressive interviews with terrorist detainees in CIA prisons and “black sites” around the world. But as the power structures change in Al Qaeda – and in Washington – what started as a national priority turns into Maya’s personal, decade-long mission.

Kathryn Bigelow, who also directed The Hurt Locker, has a great feel for the gritty, realistic behind-the-scenes world of military operations and intelligence. A lot has been made of the cooperation that Bigelow received from the CIA and the Pentagon and whether any of it was classified (or even totally accurate). That should keep the movie in the headlines and sustain its Oscar buzz. My advice is that when you see it –and you should – you need to remember that it’s a movie and not a documentary. Just like Argo, it’s a dramatization based on reality. The interrogation scenes are tough to watch, but the film doesn’t get preachy about whether the tactics are right or wrong. You barely even catch glimpses of presidents Bush and Obama. Instead, the focus stays mainly with the field agents who feel an incredible pressure to stop Al Qaeda’s next attack and incredible guilt when they’re unsuccessful.

I found it a little difficult to connect with the main characters in the early stages of the film, but by the end, you’re really rooting for Maya and Seal Team Six. The climactic raid scene on OBL’s compound alone is worth the price of the ticket. Zero Dark Thirty opens in Austin on January 11 and as you’d expect, it’s rated R for strong violence including brutal disturbing images, and for language. Running time is 2:37.

Ken’s Take – I must agree with Bettie when it comes to relating with the characters, however I would suggest you go to the matinee.  Maya is a spitfire character that is based on a true person in the CIA, but you don’t see her aggressiveness at first.  It’s hard for me to watch a movie of a story that I already know the ending too, so I was ready for it to wow me with something I didn’t already know, especially since Kathryn Bigelow had inside information.  Maybe the story on what happened during 10 years searching for Osama bin Laden isn’t all that compelling to begin with, but I believe Kathryn Bigelow should have used that movie magic to make it just a bit more intriguing.  The story is lengthy and takes quite some time to develop.  You could even show up half way into it and not miss much.  I just don’t understand why it’s on everyone’s best of 2012’s list.  I wanted Bigelow to make Osama bin Laden come to life for me, but maybe there’s reason behind that.  Maybe even though we captured and killed him, we didn’t know him.  We just knew him as a terrorist.  Even the ending when Maya walks up to see Bin Laden's body, I was expecting chills down my spine.  Instead, I got something quite lackluster.

By Bettie Cross and Ken WilsonDueling Reviews: Zero Dark Thirty

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