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Kathryn Bigelow
Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler
Writing Credits:
Mark Boal

A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy SEALS in May 2011.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$417,150 on 5 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
English Audio Descriptive Service
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 157 min.
Price: $14.99
Release Date: 3/19/2013

• “No Small Feat” Featurette
• “The Compound” Featurette
• “Geared Up” Featurette
• “Targeting Jessica Chastain” Featurette


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Zero Dark Thirty [Blu-Ray] (2012)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 15, 2017)

After a long break from filmmaking, Kathryn Bigelow returned with a bang via 2009’s The Hurt Locker. Although the movie didn’t do much at the box office, it snared multiple Oscars – including Best Picture - and re-established Bigelow in Hollywood.

Which led to a higher profile for her follow-up: 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty. It didn’t win as many awards, but it got excellent reviews and became a moderate box office hit. No, Zero’s $94 million didn’t dazzle, but the low-budget flick turned a profit, and it delivered much stronger returns that the poor $17 million of Hurt Locker.

Although I found myself rather underwhelmed by Hurt Locker, I hoped to feel more impressed by Zero. Set in the Middle East two years after the 9/11 attacks, we observe CIA interrogations intended to deal with potential terrorism and its perpetrators. Into this setting steps Maya (Jessica Chastain), a young agent new to these techniques.

Although put off by the brutality of the interrogation at first, Maya quickly adapts and becomes part of the team. Along the way, she develops a single-minded obsession with the pursuit of Usama bin Laden. We follow her as she attempts to achieve this goal.

Like many historical films, Zero comes with one major possible obstacle: we know how the story will end. Not only do we realize that a Navy SEAL team will kill bin Laden, but also we understand that all of the soldiers will survive, so we lose some potential tension.

With 1997’s Titanic, Bigelow’s ex-husband James Cameron got around this pitfall to a degree: he focused on fictional characters whose fates wouldn’t be known in advance. Zero can’t do that, at least not in the same way. While it does provide composite characters and puts them in non-factual situations, any attempts to fictionalize the climactic assault would’ve been disastrous.

This makes Zero more analogous to 1995’s Apollo 13. That flick could take liberties but not to a huge degree, and it needed to stay pretty accurate when it came to its finale.

In the case of Apollo 13, we got a movie that may’ve been predictable but it still seemed exciting and tense. I’m not wild about Ron Howard as a director, but for that film, he brought out his “A-game” as he infused the already-known story with drama and pizzazz.

I’m also not much of a fan of Bigelow as a director, and Zero doesn’t change my mind. Unlike Cameron or Howard, she brings little flair and excitement to her film. Instead, she tends to rob potentially dynamic material of its vitality.

When I saw Zero theatrically, I did so a couple of days after I watched Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained and couldn’t help but compare the two directors. I sense a radical imbalance in skill between the two, for I feel Tarantino is a master filmmaker while Bigelow is completely, entirely average.

Django vs. Zero reinforces this notion. On the surface, Django - like Inglourious Basterds and pretty much every other Tarantino film – should be schlock. Django offers a story straight from cheap 70s “B”-movie fare and comes with little at its heart that should ensure greatness.

But miraculously, Tarantino takes this sow’s ear and turns it into a silk purse. He manages to create a dynamic, evocative effort that overcomes its humble beginnings and shows how much a great director can bring to the table.

While Tarantino takes flawed material and makes it shine, Bigelow does the opposite. Despite the potential negatives that come with its known outcome, Zero could – and should – have offered a gripping narrative.

It doesn’t. Instead, Zero feels almost shockingly devoid of drama. Actually, it does okay for itself during the first act, but before long, it runs out of steam. Bigelow resorts to cheap tactics like the gratuitous killings of agents and other hamfisted choices to involve the audience, but these backfire.

And when one of Maya’s colleagues dies, Bigelow’s choices backfire to a massive degree. The scene in which this occurs is so stupid that singlehandedly threatens to ruin the rest of the movie.

For one, Bigelow completely telegraphs that a death will happen, as films don’t focus on secondary characters like this unless something major will take place, so we can see demise in advance. Also, the person in question behaves so idiotically that we don’t feel particularly bad when death occurs. The whole thing delivers such a contrived “movie moment” that we get none of the intended passion or emotion.

Even without that radical mistake, Zero lacks drama. We follow Maya on her quest toward the inevitable and rarely feel especially invested in her pursuit. Again, some of this may stem from the already-known outcome, but I think Bigelow’s flaws as a director are the bigger issue, as she just can’t add any spice to the proceedings.

The climactic assault becomes the biggest victim of Bigelow’s mediocrity. At no point does the extended military raid do much to involve the viewer, so we follow the soldiers as they achieve their goals and don’t really care all that much.

How is this possible? Predictable finale or not, shouldn’t an attack like this have plenty of tension and drama?

Yup, but it doesn’t, and again, I blame Bigelow. While Tarantino takes mediocre material and makes it great, Bigelow takes awesome material and makes it bland.

I see no “signature style” from her – or much style of any sort, honestly, as anonymity seems to be her route. She turned Hurt Locker into little more than a “C”-level action flick, and she develops Zero into a slow, dull attempt at a thriller.

I take no pleasure from this opinion. I wanted to like Hurt Locker, I wanted to like Zero, and I thought I would/should enjoy both of them.

But I didn’t. Zero Dark Thirty gives us a perfectly average thriller that could’ve been made by any number of other directors. It gets a boost from its interesting subject matter but ends up as a thoroughly generic film.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus C-

Zero Dark Thirty appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image seemed more than satisfactory.

Sharpness looked good. Interiors occasionally appeared a smidgen soft, but most of the movie delivered solid clarity and accuracy. No signs of jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and no edge haloes became apparent. Source flaws were a non-factor, as this was a clean presentation.

Orange and teal have become dominant colors in today’s Hollywood, and they influenced Zero. Nonetheless, the tones consistently seemed positive within those parameters. Blacks were deep and firm, while low-light shots came across as appropriately dense but not overly dark. This was a well-reproduced image..

I also felt pleased with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Zero Dark Thirty. Though much of the film concentrated on character moments, the various action sequences offered enough pizzazz to create an impact. These filled out the speakers well, and the quieter moments delivered good involvement as well.

For much of the film, occasional explosions offered the most obvious “big moments”, but the final act used the speakers to much more consistent advantage. During the climactic assault, the various channels came to life and offered an involving impression. The rest of the movie seemed fine, too, but it was the climax that most obviously delivered the sonic goods.

Audio quality also was solid. Speech seemed crisp and distinctive, as I noticed no flaws like edginess. Music seemed warm and full, while effects added a real bang to the proceedings. Those elements showed good clarity and accuracy, and they offered tight, deep bass as well. The track seemed vibrant and dynamic as it accentuated the movie in a satisfying manner.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version? Audio showed greater range and intensity, while visuals were tighter, clearer and smoother. This offered a good step up in quality.

Like the DVD, the Blu-ray comes with four featurettes. We find No Small Feat (three minutes, 51 seconds), The Compound (9:25), Geared Up (7:03) and Targeting Jessica Chastain (5:19).

Across these, we hear from director/producer Kathryn Bigelow, producer/screenwriter Mark Boal, production designer Jeremy Hindle, set decorator Roderick McLean, DEVGRU operators Mitchell Hall and Barrie Rice, armorer David Fencl, Stealth helicopter special EFX supervisor Neil Corbould, and actors Jessica Chastain, Kyle Chandler, Mark Strong, Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke, and Chris Pratt.

The programs cover story/characters, realism/accuracy, what Bigelow brings to the project, sets and locations, military elements, cast and performances. You’ll learn a decent amount from these programs, but don’t expect great depth; they’re essentially promotional fodder.

Kathryn Bigelow has come to enjoy a strong reputation as a director over the last few years, but I can’t figure out why. I’ve yet to see a Bigelow film that seemed better than average to me, and 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty does nothing to change my mind. Watchable but curiously flat and devoid of tension, the movie seems anonymous and forgettable. The Blu-ray gives us very good picture and audio but lacks substantial supplements. As much as I want to like Zero, I just don’t find its alleged strengths to become apparent to me.

To rate this film visit the original DVD Review of ZERO DARK THIRTY

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