01 January 2013

Review: Zero Dark Thirty

Genre: Drama

Ms. Bigelow bulwarks against cinema's ever effacing superfice with her own quasi-documentary brand of drama narrative filmmaking - a brand now manifest in a captivating Zero Dark Thirty. A purposefully naturalistic film, the piece is smartly edited and even better written, a vision of not simply the plan executed for apprehending and eliminating the terrorist Osama bin Laden but generally the effort expended in cultivating and asserting a political face over one's personal one. In this craft, the film mirrors truly Ms. Bigelow's own filmmaker's story and thus becomes itself a political face to a personal toil rich and sweaty and gritty and male (in the most loaded social sense of the word).
As her Galatea (of sorts), Ms. Chastain exuberates her dampened passions, frustrations and joys, in the thoroughness of her body. She affronts her surroundings across the spectrum in concert with the growth of her character in the film, until as a perfect last note the façade breaks and she cries to close the film. Her tears moisten the desert landscape that she inhabits, hoping for greenery where there is hardly cause to expect one. Like Galatea, she transforms.
The only serious critique I can lob at the film is, surprisingly, at its score's composer, Mr. Desplat, whose work for other films (see here for example) notably has been among my favorite musical compositions in memory. Here, however, there is none of his keen observation of rhythm and depth as there has been in the past; his notes and, indeed, his chosen motif miss the nature of the film and sound classical where they should sound spite and severe. I wanted a kind of Messrs. Reznor and Ross' bubbling spirit from The Social Network (2010) but I continually found a kind of Mr. Desplat's terpsichorean cues from Birth (2004). Would that the score had been as en pointe as was Mr. Morricone's for this year's Django Unchained, this work would approximate ultimate excellence.

Grade: A.

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