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REVIEW: ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ is Overrated, "Brutally Average" Film

Our resident film critic, Jake Horowitz, gives a scathing review of the critically acclaimed and award-winning ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

By: Jake Horowitz
Published: January 11th, 2013 in Culture » Film » Reviews
Jessica Chastain in ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

If The Academy Awards are indeed a barometer for how good a film is, then Zero Dark Thirty must be an amazing film. When the nominations were announced Thursday morning for the 2013 Oscars, Zero Dark Thirty, director Kathryn Bigelow’s film about the decade long hunt for Osama Bin Laden, landed a nod for Best Lead Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture.

However, if you’re not one to base your movie suggestions off of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, then surely the universal critical acclaim that Zero Dark Thirty has been picking up is enough to convince you how truly revolutionary this film is. After all, it does have 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and many are calling it “the best film of the decade.”

Although, if you’re still not convinced after an Oscar nomination for Best Picture and universal critical acclaim that this is a film worth seeing, then maybe you can’t be convinced. Or maybe you just really want to read one more review before you make up your mind. If that’s the case, then please continue reading because I’m here to tell you that not only is Zero Dark Thirty not the best film of the decade, but it is not even the best film of the year, the season, or the month. Zero Dark Thirty, despite the praise being heaped on it with every passing minute, is a brutally average film.

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal, the same team that made 2009’s Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker (another massively overrated film), Zero Dark Thirty feels like a three hour film about office work, occasionally stopping along the way for a nonsensical explosion scene. Starring Jessica Chastain as a CIA officer who has spent her whole career trying to track down Osama bin Laden, there is simply nothing fresh, nothing new, and nothing provocative about the story that we all know the ending to.

And this is where Zero Dark Thirty’s biggest problem stems from. Originally, Bigelow and Boal set out to make a film about the hunt for bin Laden, going so far as to finish the entire screenplay and prepare for filming. However, after news broke about bin Laden’s death in 2010, the duo re-wrote the film in order to incorporate the new ending. Despite the rewrite however, the first two hours still feel very much like a different, and completely disconnected, movie. Why must we spend two hours with someone trying to track down bin Laden, only to have him keep getting away, when we already know how, when, and where he’s going to be found?

Another one of the film’s problems lies in Bigelow’s direction, and that despite the fact that the film is over two and a half hours long, there are still scenes that are never explained and seem as if they have been edited into the final cut purely by accident. Though most critics are calling Zero Dark Thirty a brilliantly crafted piece of cinema with an eye for detail, the reality is that the film is a generic drama lacking any real suspense, intelligence, or substance. Which would usually be fine for a throwaway piece of entertainment, except Zero Dark Thirty exists solely for the purpose of those three things, and without them, it’s a standard film with standard direction and, yes, even standard performances.

So despite the awards, the acclaim, and the air of self-importance surrounding the film, Zero Dark Thirty ultimately ends up being a lackluster film that serves only as an Oscar-magnet. And if you’re still not swayed one way or the other, Zero Dark Thirty opens in theaters today. Check it out and decide for yourself.

Related articles: Zero Dark Thirty, Review, Katheryn Bigelow, Jessica Chastain, Mark Boal, Director, Osama bin Laden, United States, Obama, Academy Awards, Oscars
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