Friday, January 25, 2013
3 Thoughts on Zero Dark Thirty
1. The role of Maya - Zero Dark Thirty is an important film for many reasons - the history behind it, the cinematic brilliance, the controversial stance etc. For me, the film is important purely for the main character, Maya. She is, quite possibly, my favorite female character ever to grace the big screen. It's difficult to explain my adoration for this character, but if you are someone who is exhausted by the constant misrepresentation of strong women in film/television - the constant need to give these women "heightened" personality, whether that is the super bitchy "feminist" or the "strong on the outside, emotionally unstable on the inside" woman, then you will understand why this character is so important. Maya has an understated strength to her. She is in a man's world; she's accepted it and she's moved on. Not once in the film does she use her sex as an excuse; nor does she flirt or use her sexuality to get what she wants; nor does she take issue with the repetitive reference to her as "the girl". Instead, she focuses on her goal, creates a case for her "theory" and fights for it. She doesn't need for you to like her; she just needs for you to accept that she is right. I can't deny that there are fundamental differences in the way that men and women think and the film addresses these differences brilliantly. My favorite scene showcasing this, is when a room full of men and Maya are discussing whether Osama bin Laden is actually in the building that they are about to infiltrate (part of the scene is in the trailer, so it's not really a spoiler...but *spoiler* warning anyway). All of the men, looking at the facts and figures, declare there to be a "60%" chance, while Maya, looking at the same facts and figures, ever so eloquently declares "100%" (moral: never underestimate a woman's instinct). The film asks a big question (without directly asking it), which is: would they have caught him sooner if Maya had been a man? Or would they have never caught him at all? It's interesting to think about (for me, anyway). I've seen many critiques praising the film, while faulting Maya for having "little personality". Apparently being smart, confident and persistent doesn't qualify as a full personality. To those critics, I say, you missed the fucking point of the movie. The fact that the film is directed by a female, it is obvious to me that Kathryn Bigelow put a lot of her own experience in the film (seeing as she, herself, works in a male dominated field and unapologetically makes "masculine" films). Maya is based on a real person, but since we have no knowledge of this woman, it's likely that Kathryn took some liberties with the character. She created a role model for women everywhere and if this character is, in fact, true to life, then I have a new personal hero. As expected, the casting of Jessica Chastain in such a role, is sublime. It's a powerhouse performance in a once in a lifetime role. She better win a fucking Oscar for it.
2. The controversy - While I don't think the film is pro-torture, per say, it does, flat out admit that they would not have caught Osama bin Laden without the use of torture. It presents this as fact (and let's face it, it may well be fact). Personally, I'm pretty much anti-everything. Anti-torture, anti-violence, anti-war, anti-death penalty, heck, I am even anti-imprisonment. Based on the world that I am living in, I realize that this is not very realistic and there are truly some people that don't deserve to live. It's too complicated for my brain to handle, and I for one, am very thankful that I don't personally have to make those decisions. I don't think Kathryn Bigelow intended on making a pro-torture film; and I certainly don't think she expected to have to defend her choices to show the existence of said torture. Facts are facts.
3. The flaws - As with The Hurt Locker, the film is near-perfect. The same flaws that exist in The Hurt Locker, exist in this film as well. The length is a big one. I know, I know, I harp on films being too long, way too often but I can't help it - especially when I feel like cutting 20 or 30 minutes out of a film will only benefit the story, like it would here. Also, while I loved the randomness of well-known actors popping up through-out the movie, it was also very distracting (Captain Jack Harkness??? Holy Fuck!). Several of those roles could have been cut (and condensed). The other "flaw" that can't be helped (which is why I put it in quotes), is the heaviness of the subject matter. I would never want to watch this movie again - as I have never watched The Hurt Locker again. There are ways to make movies with heavy subjects, lighter and re-watchable (see: Argo), but that is not the type of film that Bigelow wanted to make and I have to respect that.